Minnesota semi driver sentenced for 2021 fatal 8-vehicle crash near Grand Forks International Airport
He will serve 60 days at the Grand Forks County Correctional Center, and the rest of his 120 days on electronic home monitoring.
GRAND FORKS — A Felton, Minnesota, semi driver will serve two months in jail for causing an eight-vehicle crash near Grand Forks International Airport that resulted in multiple injuries as well as the death of veterinarian Dr. Eric Jayne.
Steven Charles Piechowski, 56, made a statement prior to being sentenced on Monday, Feb. 27. He began by apologizing for the “accident.”
“It wasn’t an accident, it was a collision,” said Judge Jason McCarthy. “Let’s just get that out of our vocabulary.”
Piechowski said his actions were “regrettable” and “irresponsible," and said he hopes one day those involved will forgive him.
WDAY News reported Piechowski's lawyer said Monday Piechowski had dropped a lit cigarette, and was trying to find it so it did not start a fire in his semi that was hauling asphalt for the Highway 2 construction project.
Ten minutes before the crash Piechowski had been called in for driving on and off the road in the construction zone.
"It's a bright light being taken out of a grim world with my brother being gone," Dr. Jayne's sister said.
Originally charged with Class B felony manslaughter, Piechowski pleaded guilty to the amended charge of Class C felony negligent homicide in December. He also pleaded guilty to — and was convicted of — Class C felony reckless endangerment and five counts of Class A misdemeanor aggravated reckless driving.
Piechowski was sentenced to five years, with all but 120 days suspended and credit for one day served, per his plea agreement.
Piechowski will serve 60 days at the Grand Forks County Correctional Center and may serve the other two months on electronic home monitoring. He is on two years of supervised probation.
On July 2, 2021, Piechowski was driving east in a Volvo truck tractor, pulling a trailer with hot asphalt in a construction zone on Highway 2.
According to an affidavit in the case, a witness reported Piechowski was driving recklessly and swerving on the highway. Piechowski was nearing the Grand Forks airport when he struck the rear of a Chevrolet Malibu, which caused six additional vehicles to crash.
Witnesses confirmed the stop light was red at the time of the crash, the affidavit said. When Piechowski was interviewed, he told authorities he’d been looking down before the crash.
Five people were injured and Jayne, the driver of the Malibu, died from injuries sustained in the crash.
The victim’s sister, Andrea Jayne, gave a victim impact statement prior to sentencing. She asked the judge to reconsider the plea agreement, and said she didn’t believe Piechowski should be able to drive “ever again.”
“My brother was an extraordinary person who was doing a lot of extraordinary things,” said Andrea Jayne. “Two months just seems like a slap on the hand.”
“He saved my golden retriever,” said Juliana Patron, a former client of the victim’s.
Patron said Jayne was available 24/7 “to help any animal,” and saved many of their lives. Before his death, Jayne was planning to open a spay and neuter clinic in Patron’s community to address the issue of animal overpopulation.
Piechowski was ordered to surrender after dinner on Friday, which he objected to, WDAY reported.
"Can I have two weeks if possible?" Piechowski asked.
"No, the victims didn't have any notice, so Friday at 7 p.m.," Judge McCarthy snapped back. "Don't be late."