A Wisconsin woman was reaching for her cellphone when she caused a fatal four-car crash in May, according to charges filed Tuesday.
Destiny Y. Xiong, 35, of Hudson, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two counts of criminal vehicular operation.
The crash occurred about 3:25 p.m. May 1 on northbound Interstate 35W in New Brighton. Brea A. Miller, 31, of St. Paul, was riding in the car in front of Xiong, and died on May 4 from multiple blunt force injuries she sustained in the crash.
According to the criminal complaint: Xiong was driving north on the interstate when she received a text from her daughter. Xiong had earlier texted her children saying that she was picking them up after 2 p.m.
Xiong picked her phone off her dash and read a text message from her daughter that said, “Okay.” She tried to put the phone back, but dropped it instead. She was reaching for it when she slammed into the back of a Honda Fit in front of her.
Xiong told police she could not recall whether she braked before the crash.
The Honda was one of several vehicles stopped just north of County Road D in a construction zone. The force of the impact forced the Honda into a minivan, which struck an SUV.
Miller was sitting in the passenger seat of the Honda with her fiancée, Michael D. Bain, behind the driver’s seat. An off-duty Minneapolis firefighter cut Miller’s seat belt and extracted her from the car with the help of two bystanders. A nurse who happened on the scene performed CPR on Miller while the firefighter looked after Bain, who had difficulty breathing and suffered a cut on his head.
Bain suffered several broken ribs and a traumatic brain injury, and has no recollection of the crash, according to the charges. He and Miller have a 2-year-old daughter, Isabel.
The drivers of the other two vehicles told police that they were at a full stop when the crash occurred. The SUV driver told police she hadn’t moved for three minutes.
The Minnesota State Patrol’s crash reconstruction showed that Xiong was driving between 68 to 80 miles an hour at the time of the crash.