National guardsman who killed Minnesota cyclist warns others of distracted driving

Published 9:37 am Tuesday, June 2, 2015

ST. PAUL — A former South Dakota National Guardsman who killed a 33-year-old bicyclist on a road in southwestern Minnesota last summer warned others Monday of the dangers of distracted driving.

Christopher Weber, 27, pleaded guilty to criminal vehicular homicide for the crash that killed Andrea Boeve of Steen on June 30, 2014. Weber just finished a six-month jail sentence and will serve three more months next year and three more in 2017.

Weber came to St. Paul Monday as part of the Minnesota State Patrol’s expanding campaign against distracted driving, which has focused on texting and using mobile devices, according to a press release. Weber is telling his story in a 10-minute video produced by the State Patrol and came to St. Paul to show it for the first time.

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Weber said he had been calling his bank to make a loan payment and only looked at his phone for a split second. He said he didn’t see the woman riding her bike alongside the highway, pulling her two daughters in a bike trailer.

“I was working. I was an electrician. I was going from one job site to the next. I thought, ‘What better time; I’ve done it before. Why not do it now?’ So I picked that phone up and made that call,” Weber said.

Weber hit Boeve with the side of his truck, throwing her into the ditch.

“Myself, and another gentleman that came upon the scene of the accident, we tried to save her life,” said Weber, who served in Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010. “We were unsuccessful.”

Boeve was killed about a quarter-mile from her home. Her 4-year-old daughter broke five ribs and punctured a lung, but both girls survived.

State Patrol Chief Matt Langer urged drivers to rethink any activity that takes their eyes off the road. He said he hopes Weber’s story will serve as an example of the potential danger.

“Kids, young kids arguing in the back seat is a frequent distraction,” Langer said. “People eating behind the wheel is a frequent distraction. Drinking coffee can sometimes be an incredible distraction. Talking on the phone is a distraction. Texting while driving is a distraction. Entering information into a GPS is a distraction.”

On his way to St. Paul, Weber said he happened to see a woman driving “with traffic coming in both directions, not watching the road.”

“Now, every time I see somebody on their phone, it makes me sick. It makes me think, ‘I hope you don’t do what I did,”’ Weber said.