CHICAGO (STMW) –A Cook County judge set bond at $750,000 for the suspected wrong-way driver involved in a deadly crash on Lake Shore Drive early Friday.
Erik Johnson, 23, of the 3500 block of North Janssen in Chicago, who was also injured in the wreck, made his first court appearance on Sunday afternoon. He was charged with one felony count of aggravated DUI causing an accident or death, two felony counts of aggravated DUI causing an accident or bodily harm, one misdemeanor count of DUI and improper use of a controlled access highway, according to Chicago Police.
About 2 a.m. Friday, Johnson was allegedly driving a 2014 Subaru SUV southbound in the northbound lanes of Lake Shore Drive near Randolph Street when the vehicle struck a taxi head-on as it was carrying two passengers, authorities said.
The crash killed one of the taxi’s passengers — University of Chicago Law School student Laura Anne LaPlante, 26, of Hancock, N.H., who was on track to graduate this summer, according to a university spokesman. Johnson was leaving a party, when he drove his 2014 Subaru Crosstrek the wrong way up a Lake Shore Drive northbound off ramp from Grand Avenue, at Navy Pier about 1:50 a.m, prosecutors said in court on Sunday.
After crossing the Chicago River, traveling southbound in the northbound lanes, Johnson struck the taxi cab head-on in the far left lanes of the roadway, according to a Chicago Police report.
LaPlante and the second passenger in the taxi, who were not wearing seat belts, were partially ejected from the cab, prosecutors said.
After the crash, Johnson exited his vehicle and urinated on the median of Lake Shore Drive, prosecutors said.
Johnson allegedly told paramedics that he drank “five to six beers and shots” before he got behind the wheel, prosecutors said in court.
Johnson told police that he was driving to Saint Louis, according to a police report. The report indicated Johnson, whom authorities say had a blood alcohol level of .195 — more than twice the legal limit — after the crash, had three passengers in the back seat of his vehicle at the time of the crash.
Erik Johnson works as an importer/exporter for a company in Elk Grove Village, according to his attorney Ed Pietrucha.
Johnson’s father appeared in court Sunday, after flying in from Long Island, NY, over the weekend.
William Johnson told reporters outside the courtroom that the fatal accident was a “tragic incident.”
“Our condolences to the family,” William Johnson said. “We’ve been praying since we heard.”
Laura LaPlante’s family could not be reached for comment. But her university family reflected on her life and sudden death.
“Laura was a leader in her class, the president of the Federalist Society, treasurer for the Law School Republicans and an active member of the St. Thomas More Society, the Law Women’s Caucus, and the Edmund Burke Society,” Michael H. Schill, the dean of the University of Chicago Law School, wrote in an email to students and faculty. “She spent last summer as an associate at WilmerHale in Boston and was to join the firm as an associate in the fall. She was well-known at the law school for her warmth and kindness, always the first to volunteer to help out at an event or to help a friend, always with a smile for everyone.”
“I cannot make sense of the passing of such a wonderful, vital young woman, who would surely have done so much in her life to make the world a better place,” Schill said. “Laura left each of us better human beings than we would have been in her absence. Her friendship, engagement and love enriched us.”
“Her friendship, engagement and love enriched us,” Schill said. “The outpouring of love and care not just for Laura, [the male passenger], and their families, but for each other that has taken place since this awful event occurred last night has been an inspiration. We will need to tap into the special closeness that we feel for each other as we move forward over the next days and weeks helping each other through our grief.”
The cabbie and the other passenger in the taxi — a 25-year-old man university officials said also is a U. of C. law student — were taken to Northwestern Memorial in serious condition. Johnson, too, was injured and was treated at John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County.
(Source: Sun-Times Media Wire © Chicago Sun-Times 2014. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)