A Chisago County commissioner has been charged with criminal vehicular homicide in connection with a fiery crash in the north metro last year that killed a Wisconsin man, authorities said Thursday.
Lora Walker, who represents District 1, was driving the wrong way on Interstate 35 for several miles near Rush City when her Chevy Equinox hit a southbound Ford Fusion head-on just after 3 p.m. on March 11, 2017.
The Ford caught fire and its driver, Gary Brisky, 62, of Gordon, Wis., was killed. Walker, 48, was hospitalized with injuries from the crash.
Walker, who has diabetes, was treated for low blood sugar after the crash and had failed to report similar health episodes to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) as required to keep her license, according to the criminal complaint. Medical records show she had a hard time managing her diabetes.
On the day of the crash, Walker was with a home care provider who helps monitor her blood sugar, the complaint says. Soon after the provider left, Walker phoned her mother, who later told police that she had heard a monitor audibly alert her daughter to the low blood sugar.
Eleven minutes after her phone call, Walker was driving north into the southbound exit ramp on I-35 from Hwy. 95. Drivers exiting the ramp honked and waved their hands at Walker, who witnesses later said was “laughing” and weaving between lanes, according to the complaint.
Walker continued on I-35 for 7 miles as vehicles swerved to avoid her. Brisky appeared to have veered left before crashing with Walker’s vehicle. His Ford spun into the air and landed in the median, where it began burning, the complaint said. He died at the scene.
Walker told first responders that she was diabetic and knew her blood sugar was low. They confirmed her blood sugar was low, administered an injection and fed her a dissolving glucose tablet. Her blood sugar levels quickly increased, the complaint said.
This is not the first time Walker’s low blood sugar is said to have contributed to a crash.
In 2009, her license was canceled temporarily after she crashed into a retaining wall on a freeway in Vadnais Heights. The crash was blamed on her blood sugar, according to the complaint.
When her license was reinstated, Walker was ordered to report any diabetes-related loss of consciousness to DPS. Walker told authorities she had been episode-free through June 2011 and again in July 2014. Yet she had three episodes — one in July 2011, when paramedics found her unresponsive on the floor, again in December 2014 and once more in December 2016.
Her next report was due in 2018. At the time of the crash, Walker had a valid driver’s license and drove regularly, the complaint said.
Walker, of Stacy, has been the county’s District 1 commissioner for the past eight years. She also had served in the position in 2003-04.
Chisago County released a statement Thursday saying that the charges were filed in Mille Lacs County to avoid any conflict of interest.