Elizabeth Cooper Injured by Alleged DWI Driver on I-35 in Johnson County, TX
Johnson County, TX -- December 11, 2021, 50-year-old Elizabeth Cooper was seriously injured in a traffic collision on Interstate 35 in Johnson County.
Authorities say the incident happened around 7:35 p.m. on I-35 near mile marker 19. Preliminary investigation suggests 42-year-old Steven Heflin was driving a Chevrolet Malibu south on the interstate in the right line; according to witnesses the car was traveling at high speeds. Nearby, 53-year-old Rodney Cooper was driving a Kia Telluride SUV south in the left lane of the roadway.
Reports indicate that Heflin tried to pass traffic in the right lane and then merged left when unsafe, at which point the Chevy's left side crashed into the right side of the Kia. The impact caused the Kia to veer left into the median where it overturned and rolled multiple times. It came to rest upside-down in the median. The Chevy continued onward about a quarter-mile before it stopped due to disabling wheel damage. Heflin and his passengers then fled on foot but were located a short time later.
Elizabeth Cooper, a passenger in the Kia, suffered serious injuries in the crash. Rodney Cooper and Steven Helfin reportedly received possible injuries. Two passengers in the Chevy were unhurt.
Investigators believe Heflin was intoxicated by alcohol at the time of the crash and collected samples for testing.
No further information is available at this time.
Commentary on Elizabeth Cooper Accident on I-35 in Johnson County
Authorities seem to think impairment by alcohol was a factor in this wreck, to the point of flatly stating the suspect was intoxicated. I have no reason to doubt them, though as always I would have to see clear proof before I'm willing to set aside the search for other explanations. However, if intoxication is confirmed by blood tests then there may be other issues that need closer scrutiny as well.
One thing that doesn't always get the attention it deserves is learning where the suspect's alcohol came from. Some may not see how that detail is particularly important, but under Texas dram shop law any business that sold or served an excess of alcohol to the allegedly-intoxicated driver might then be responsible for the damage he caused. In other words a bar, restaurant, club, or store that provided drinks to the at-fault driver--even when they could tell they shouldn't--might then be expected to help anyone injured while he was drunk.
Not every DWI crash involves a dram shop violation, and right now there's no telling if any businesses should be held accountable here. The possibility simply needs proper attention any time alcohol consumption and injury may be connected. Will the authorities make the effort to look into it, or is justice more likely to be served by an independent investigation?