Erik Johnson charged in wrong-way LSD crash

Erik Johnson, 23, has been charged with three felonies related to driving under the influence in connection with a wrong-way crash on Lake Shore Drive. (WLS)
May 6, 2014 3:21:06 AM PDT
A Chicago man is behind bars charged in a traffic accident that killed University of Chicago law student Laura LaPlante.

Police say 23-year-old Erik Johnson was drunk when he drove his SUV the wrong way on Lake Shore Drive, slamming into a cab carrying the 26-year-old student.

LaPlante had her eyes on the future. She was graduating next month and already had a job lined up at a law firm. All of it would be stolen, prosecutors say, by a driver whose blood alcohol limit was more than twice the legal limit.

Johnson is being held on $750,000 bond.

"Our wishes are with all the victims in this situation. Horrible, tragic situation," said Bill Johnson, father of Erik Johnson.

It was early Friday morning when prosecutors say Johnson drove the wrong way on north bound Lake Shore Drive after entering at the Grand exit, crashing head-on into a taxi carrying 26-year-old Laura LaPlante and a friend.

After exiting his mangled Subaru SUV, prosecutors say Johnson told police he had consumed five or six beers at a friend's party, in addition to shots of alcohol. His blood alcohol level was more than twice the legal limit.

"You know, we've been praying since we heard about it. And we're going to continue praying. That's all I can tell you," said Bill Johnson.

Prosecutors say LaPlante, a University of Chicago law student, and her classmate and friend, 25-year-old Michael Wasil, were partially-ejected from the cab. Both were not wearing seatbelts. LaPlante would later die at Northwestern Hospital. Wasil and the cab driver were also seriously injured.

"There are no words to explain the why and the how. It's just awful," said family friend Lauren Carney.

On Sunday night, LaPlante's loved-ones in her native New Hampshire are struggling to make sense of her death. She was a week away from graduating from U of C law, where flags have been lowered in her honor. LaPlante was member of several student law groups and had already secured a job as an attorney at a Boston law firm.

"She understood that life was short, and you had to make the most of what you had," Carney said. "She planned her life, and she knew where she was going. And she wanted to make an impact."

Wasil was in serious condition at Northwestern Hospital, and the taxi driver suffered a broken elbow. Johnson, who was in jail Sunday night, walked away with minor bruises.

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