A driver was texting when his out-of-control car flew through the air and fatally crushed a woman sitting in her vehicle at an east metro intersection, a prosecutor on the case said Tuesday.
Drew T. Fleming, 21, of North Hudson, Wis., was charged in Washington County District Court last week with reckless driving, a gross misdemeanor, which carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $3,000 fine.
Megan Goeltz, of Hudson, was fatally struck on Feb. 29, 2016, 10 days after her 22nd birthday, at a three-way intersection halfway between Lakeland and Bayport.
The criminal complaint did not specify how Fleming was allegedly distracted by his phone, but Assistant County Attorney Thomas Wedes said Tuesday that "it appears that he was texting while operating a motor vehicle."
This case comes as state safety officials prepare for a statewide enforcement ramp-up starting Friday to combat distracted driving.
The family of Joe Tikalsky, a 79-year-old New Prague man fatally run over by a woman texting while driving in October 2015, will be joined Thursday by some of his former school bus riders outside his home, the spot where Tikalsky was hit.
"The loss of a person usually reaches well beyond a family, it often touches an entire community," read a Department of Public Safety announcement of the campaign, which will run from Friday until April 23. "Such was the case with Joe Tikalsky, a New Prague school bus driver for more than 40 years, who was killed by a distracted driver."
The charge against Fleming also comes as legislation in Minnesota that would prohibit drivers from using hand-held cells and other electronic devices faces long odds of passing this session. The measure would have made Minnesota the 15th state, along with Washington, D.C., to pass such a ban.
Wedes said that the gross-misdemeanor count "fits within the evidence I can use." He said a felony charge was within reach of prosecutors, but there was evidence "obtained in a way that was not permissible." He declined to elaborate.
Wedes said the prosecution met with the Goeltz family, and "I think they are disappointed" that a felony count was not filed.
Goeltz was raising her 3-year-old daughter on her own and working at a nursing home in Hudson, said her father, Thomas Goeltz. Soon after the wreck, he said his daughter's death "really hits home for me. I'm a safety consultant. I train people on distracted driving."