By Patti Weaver
(Stillwater, Okla.) — A young truck driver, who did not have a commercial driver’s license, has been charged with second-degree manslaughter in a 2022 fatal collision north of Cushing at the Highway 51 and Highway 18 intersection, which was under construction with marked stop signs, according to court documents filed last week.
Andrew J. Nielson of Carlsbad, NM, who was then 19, “was operating a heavy truck and trailer combination that he was untrained to operate,” when he failed to stop at the intersection and struck a Nissan driven by Julie Johnson, who died at the scene, an affidavit alleged.
If convicted of causing the victim’s death by culpable negligence, Nielson, now 20, could be given a prison term ranging from two to four years, according to the felony charge filed by Payne County Assistant District Attorney Jose Villarreal last week. Nielson has not yet appeared in court.
“On Friday, April 29, 2022, at approximately 6:31 pm, a fatal motor vehicle collision occurred at the intersection of State Highway 51 and State Highway 18 in Payne County,” Trooper James Stacy of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol Traffic Homicide Unit wrote in an affidavit filed with the charge last week.
“During the investigation, it was determined that a white 2018 Ram 3500, operated by Andrew Nielson, was traveling westbound on SH 51,” while towing a trailer that was loaded with metal screens, the affidavit alleged.
“A black 2014 Nissan Altima, operated by Julie Johnson, was traveling northbound on SH 18. The intersection of State Highway 51 and State Highway 18 is a four-way intersection controlled by stop signs in all directions.
“The intersection was under construction at the time of the collision but was properly marked with stop signs. Nielson failed to stop for his stop sign and struck the Nissan in the intersection. The Nissan rotated clockwise as it departed the road and traveled down a concrete culvert on the northwest corner of the intersection.
“Julie Johnson was pronounced dead at the scene, but Nielson was not injured.
“Nielson stated that he observed the stop sign and attempted to stop by utilizing his exhaust brakes but realized he was not going to be able to stop before the stop sign. The pre-crash data indicated the Ram was traveling 60 mph approximately five seconds before impact. The Ram had oversized tires, which caused the speedometer to read slower than the actual ground speed of the vehicle.
“Taking the size difference into account, the Ram was traveling at approximately 62 mph approximately five seconds before impact. Due to being in a construction zone, the speed limit was set at 45 mph. The Ram was traveling approximately 40 mph at the time of impact. Nielson was hauling the load for his employer at the time of the collision,” the affidavit alleged.
A commercial motor vehicle enforcement trooper conducted an investigation that “found several violations including the fact that the electronic trailer brakes were not functioning. Nielson had a valid driver’s license but did not have a commercial driver’s license,” the affidavit alleged.
“The conclusion of the investigation determined that Nielson was operating a heavy truck and trailer combination that he was untrained to operate. Nielson attempted to stop for the stop sign, but the heavy load and lack of electronic trailer brakes affected the stopping distance required.
“Due to Nielson traveling faster than the posted speed limit, additional stopping distance was also required. Johnson died as a result of Nielson’s reckless disregard for the safety of others. Nielson was 19 years old and held a valid New Mexico driver’s license at time of the collision,” the affidavit alleged.