L’ANSE – The Illinois man accused of being behind the wheel in a fatal crash in October at the Holiday gas station tested more than two hours after the crash at nearly twice the legal blood alcohol level, according to a Michigan State Police Report.
Dawaun Johnson, 22, told police he was dozing off before waking up around 11:30 p.m. Oct. 12 off U.S. Highway 41 and turned off at the gas pumps at the station. truck at the time. A holiday employee in the store was also injured in the accident.
Johnson, a driver for CR England, said he was mentoring a trainee, who had been driving almost all day.
They started the day around 9 a.m. in Pleasant Prairie, Wis., before driving to Joliet, Illinois to pick up a load, Johnson told police. They left there around 1 or 2 pm Central time to make a delivery to Houghton.
Johnson took over driving about half an hour before the crash because his apprentice was nearing his hours limit, he said.
“Dawaun said he was fine but maybe 10 minutes into driving he started to get tired but he didn’t say anything because he knew he was close to their destination and they had less than 80 miles,” MSP Trooper Rachel Roose’s supplemental incident report said.
Johnson remembers crashing into the Holiday station, but not the truck. He said he was not quite asleep, but turned away to the side of the road as he dozed; by then it was too late to swing out, he told Roose.
A blood draw conducted at 1:41 a.m. showed Johnson had a blood alcohol level of .156.
Johnson estimated he consumed a pint of E&J brandy from a 750-milliliter bottle back in the truck’s cab while he was student driving, the report said. It started around 1 p.m. Central time, he said, and continued over the next four or five hours. The trooper who interviewed him noticed intoxicants on his breath.
Johnson lay down in the cab but did not sleep while the student was driving, he told police.
Johnson underwent a field sobriety test, during which he showed difficulty with several tests, such as finger-to-nose and the walk-and-turn.
Trooper Tobin Wheeler asked him to rate his level of intoxication while driving on a scale of 0-10. Johnson estimated it at 3, said “I still felt it, but I wouldn’t blame it on alcohol.”
Asked if he would feel comfortable driving if his children were inside, Johnson initially answered yes before changing his answer to no, Roose wrote.
“When asked why, Dawaun said, ‘Because I did drink,'” Roose’s report said. “He was then asked if it affected his ability to drive, and he said: ‘Maybe, just a little.’
Johnson and the student both said the student had no idea Johnson had been drinking. The student speculated that Johnson may have purchased the brandy earlier that day when they stopped at Walmart.
The trainee told police he was upset to learn Johnson had been drinking because he was supposed to be training him. It was also stupid because they were also about to be off for the weekend, he said.
Roose and Wheeler were making a traffic stop on Fourth Street in L’Anse when they heard a loud explosion and saw a flash in the sky toward Broad Street. Arriving at the scene, they saw flames coming from the pumps, ongoing explosions at the station and a power line across the road.
They secured the scene and removed bystanders from the area. Roose encountered a Holiday employee walking down US 41 who reported being injured. From inside the store, he saw a semi approaching the pumps. She said there was also a van at the pumps, which was later found to belong to Dantes.
L’Anse Fire Department and other auxiliary departments responded to fight the fire. After Roose heard a man screaming for help, L’Anse firefighters Kevin Knight and Fabian found Kristo Dantes from under the semi and pulled him under the semi around 11:40 p.m. Bay Ambulance brought him to Baraga County Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The Holiday employee told Roose and Wheeler that she was calling a customer’s lottery tickets when she saw the headlights of the semi coming toward her.
At first she was stuck under the counter and was able to free herself. She and the client tried to get out through the emergency exit, which she said was blocked from the accident. After crossing the highway, the customer called the L’Anse fire chief to inform him of the accident and to seek assistance for Dantes.
The customer’s co-worker, who was waiting in the parking lot, floored it after seeing the semi sway from side to side in her rearview mirror as it approached the station, Roose wrote.
The co-worker then drove out of the parking lot and toward the L’Anse Fire Hall before calling 911.
Trooper Peter Dekryger, an accident investigator, found tire tracks indicating that the tractor-trailer left the road at the intersection of US 41 and Broad Street before entering the grass island in front of Campioni’s convenience store. The tire marks continued across the Campioni’s curbs, through the path of the knocked over telephone pole and into the holiday grounds.
There was no clear evidence of braking in the grass, Dekryger wrote. Due to rain and water from fire suppression, it was unclear whether the driver had braked on the asphalt. On the concrete pad of Holiday’s fuel islands, debris from the tires was scrubbed clean, indicating possible braking, he wrote.
Johnson is charged with operating while intoxicated – causing death, a 15-year felony. He received two additional charges earlier this month – being intoxicated causing serious injury and having an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.
His preliminary hearing is scheduled for December 13.