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'I'm the only one that can still speak for us': MoDOT fatal crash survivor wants driver charged

The surviving victim says St. Louis Prosecutor Wesley Bell is taking too long to issue charges against the driver who killed two of his coworkers five months ago.

ST. LOUIS — Five hours, five times a week.

That’s how often Michael Brown is going to a physical rehabilitation clinic to try to get his life back.

He was working for the Missouri Department of Transportation Nov. 18 when a car barreled through his job site along Telegraph Road over Interstate 255. Two of his coworkers, Kaitlyn Anderson and James Brooks, were killed. Anderson was pregnant.

“Three people died that day,” Brown said. “I'm the only one that can still speak for us.”

Speaking about what happened and, more importantly, what hasn’t happened yet, has become part of Brown’s healing, too.

“It’s been five months, and he’s still roaming free,” Brown said of the driver.

Credit: Family photo
Kaitlyn Anderson
Credit: Handout
James Brooks

5 On Your Side is not identifying the driver, a 52-year-old man because he has not been charged with a crime.

Brown wants to know why prosecutors haven’t charged him with a crime and why he still has a license.

The Highway Patrol determined the driver may have experienced a medical episode, which could have caused the crash, according to Cpl. Dallas Thompson.

The bar is high when it comes to charging someone who causes an accident because of a medical condition. And revoking someone’s driver’s license because of a medical issue is rare, Thompson said.

“I’ve never seen it happen in my career,” said Thompson, a 19-year veteran.

Brown said he has talked to St. Louis County prosecutors about the case.

“Apparently, there's medical records showing his blood sugar was low, but if your blood sugar was that low, then you shouldn't be driving,” Brown said. “You should have felt the effects and pulled over.

“Most of my frustration is at the prosecutor not doing anything about this or what seems like he's not doing anything.”

Prosecuting a case

St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell issued a statement to 5 On Your Side, which confirmed his office is waiting for more records before making a decision on whether to issue charges.

The statement read, in part: "We understand the grief and impatience of those impacted by this tragedy, but our condolences can't hurry the process of the investigation or affect our legal judgement."

That's not enough for Brown.

“I just believe the man responsible should be held responsible,” Brown said.

5 On Your Side has learned that it’s not that simple.

Medical conditions and Missouri driver's licenses 

Thompson said family members or doctors sometimes call the Missouri Highway Patrol to report a loved one or a patient who they fear is suffering from dementia or another type of medical condition that could hinder their ability to drive safely. In those situations, Thompson said the Highway Patrol will report the concerns to the Department of Revenue, which can then require a driver to take a test in order to keep their license.

“If they pass the test, they keep their license,” Thompson said.

When it comes to medical conditions that could affect driving, that’s also a challenge, he said.

“It’s like, ‘If I have a heart condition that could cause a heart attack at any given moment, should I have my license revoked?’” Thompson said.

Brown noted the man who struck him has been in previous accidents.

Brown has no memory of what happened on the day he was struck and his coworkers were killed. The last memory he had from before the incident was from about four months before the crash.

He suffered a compound fracture of his left leg, which is now held together with rods. His left wrist was broken.

“That wasn’t known until two days after being in the hospital,” Brown said. “When they went to move my arm, I screamed out in pain.”

He had three broken ribs and a brain injury.

“Basically, my whole left side was broke,” he said.

Despite his injuries, Brown said he wants to get back on the job.

He knows it won’t be the same without hearing Kaitlyn Anderson talk to him through the headset they wore on loud job sites so they could hear each other even though they were oftentimes side-by-side on the same equipment.

The road to recovery

Brown let 5 On Your Side follow him along for a recent therapy session.

“I've always said, if I go home and I'm feeling fine after day therapy, then obviously I didn't work hard enough,” Brown said.

His physical therapist, Mary Brown, has Michael Brown walk on a mat that has several rubber stepping stones underneath it.

“He has come really far,” she said. “We also have air-filled discs under there that will wobble the moment you step down and he doesn't know where they are.

“So he has to react to the movement underneath his feet as he feels them, which is what you would see on like a work site.”

At times, the conversation drifts to the case.

“Some days he's more frustrated with it,” Mary Brown said. “He feels like he's actually being heard now, which is very helpful for him.”

Here is the full statement from St. Louis County Prosecutor Wesley Bell: 

"Our hearts go out to those individuals and their families. That said, our office has an ethical duty to do our due diligence when conducting any and all criminal investigations. I have a huge amount of respect for the great and often courageous work of the men and women of MoDOT. That said, the men and women of the St. Louis County Prosecutor's Office are also dedicated to the work of justice and public safety. Unfortunately, that work is not always swift. However, we pledge to the residents of St. Louis County to do everything we can, within the limits of the law, to get every case right."

A fundraiser has also been established for Brown. Visit this link to learn more.

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