PHOENIX — The father of a 21-year-old Wisconsin woman killed in a car crash during a Waukesha, Wis., holiday parade over the weekend revealed Wednesday that he decided he wanted to drive his daughter away from danger as he pushed her out of the way of oncoming traffic.
Waukesha police said Sunday that the 36-year-old father was speeding and at fault for the accident. His daughter, Jenna, who police identified only as a Prescott, Ariz., resident, was killed and three other passengers were injured. The crash was “a terrible tragedy,” police said.
At a news conference with his attorney on Wednesday, Dezmond Griffin said he was frightened for the safety of his family after living and working in Phoenix and going to church with the young people, including his daughter, in Wisconsin.
“I feel sick,” Griffin said of his reaction to news of the accident over the weekend. “It’s a terrible, terrible loss, just a terrible tragedy.”
Griffin, who is cooperating with police, said he had been going from his home in Phoenix, which is across the street from where he lived with his mother, to retrieve his daughter early Sunday morning to go to church with her and help them celebrate her 21st birthday. The small church group from Prescott, a college town not far from Phoenix, often gathers for visits during the holidays.
At about 4 a.m., on Interstate 43 in Waukesha, Wis., Griffin said he noticed that there was an off-ramp nearby for a transfer to I-94. He pulled up in front of a trailer with some kind of commercial truck parked, he said, then watched the driver go by “walking away with just a glazed look.”
Griffin said he was worried because of a nature report he had seen on television the night before: A flyover by a semi traveling too fast.
“I was anxious,” he said. “I didn’t want to take that chance.”
As the driver continued to drive past, Griffin said he told his daughter to get out of the way, “which is a terrible thing to do.” The father said he kept up with the driver on the freeway. At a light on Interstate 38, the driver’s car crashed into a side median.
Griffin said he drove to the off-ramp but stopped there because he said he could not find a place to park. He was not there long, he said, and his daughter was safe.
Earlier Wednesday, members of the Prescott community said they remembered her as outgoing and helpful.
“Jenna made the best of every situation,” Kim Schroth, who described herself as Jenna’s aunt, said in a statement. “She had an infectious laugh and was always ready to please. She had a passion for helping those in need, and she always expressed her gratitude and love for her family. She always had time for people; Jenna shared as much of her time as she could.”
Griffin said that he and his wife, Delaina, have established a fund through Capital Credit Union to help their daughter’s family with expenses. He said he hoped to learn more information about the crash investigation and his daughter’s “life that she was truly hoping to go on” after Easter.
The fund has raised more than $12,000 in five days, he said.
— The Washington Post