WATERLOO — A mini-van driver told jurors he swerved in an attempt to avoid a pickup truck that ran a stop sign and darted into the intersection, causing a crash that killed his infant passenger.
“There was a vehicle coming from my right side … It was a red pickup truck coming at us fairly quickly,” said Dr. Danny Lewis Jr. “I swerved, tried to avoid it … it hit our passenger side. I think we rolled over, side over side.”
Lewis, whose wife was babysitting 7-month-old Liam Mwanje — the son of a colleague at the same clinic — testified the pickup truck had emerged from behind a Sycamore Street building and entered the intersection with no sign of braking.
Authorities said the pickup truck was driven by Derrick Earl Johnson, 37, who was allegedly traveling around 55 mph in a 25 mph zone while under the influence of alcohol and cocaine at the time of the collision around 6:35 p.m. on Aug. 2, 2017.
Derrick Johnson is charged with homicide by vehicle, and testimony in his trial continued Thursday. The defense said he wasn’t intoxicated.
Kayce Gieser, a nurse who was heading to work, was behind Lewis’ van. She testified that she saw the crash and pulled over to help.
“As he hit the van, it was on the passenger side a little toward the back end … The van rolled a couple of times and landed on its wheels across the street. The truck had spun itself around and was facing back the other way,” Gieser said.
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Lewis, who was returning from his son’s soccer practice at the Sportsplex, told jurors after the impact he climbed out of the van and began removing passengers, including little Liam.
“He wasn’t moving. I didn’t think he was breathing,” Lewis said.
Gieser began CRP on Liam along with the help of Patrick McGrane, an acquaintance of Lewis who happened to be passing by. She said she wasn’t able to regain a pulse and was soon relieved by paramedics who continued to try to revive the child.
Lewis began trying to call Liam’s mother.
Jurors also heard on Thursday that Derrick Johnson told police investigators he had one or two beers at his home around 1 p.m. — five hours earlier — and denied taking any drugs.
He said he had been coming back from a liquor store on East Fourth Street where he bought cigarettes. He told police he didn’t see the stop sign. A female acquaintance who was behind Derrick Johnson’s pickup in another vehicle, told police she and Derrick Johnson were arguing over the phone. But Derrick Johnson said he hadn’t been on his phone, which was found on the floorboard after the crash.
At the time of the crash, East First Street, normally a one way, was open to two-way traffic because of road construction in the area. The stoplight at the intersection was turned off and bagged because of roadwork, and traffic on Sycamore Street had a stop sign, according to testimony.