The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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September 28, 2012

Lawsuit filed in MSSU athlete’s death

JOPLIN, Mo. — A lawsuit has been filed against the owners of a defunct Springfield nightclub for serving alcohol to a 19-year-old who was driving a car that crashed late last year, killing two Missouri Southern State University football players.

Dionna Johnson, mother of Diondre Johnson, one of the victims, also has filed suit against Jeremy Johnson, the driver in the December 2011 accident on Interstate 44 east of Sarcoxie.

Diondre Johnson and Michael McCrimmons, both 19 and from Springfield, were killed in a series of early morning crashes on Dec. 2, 2011. Jeremy Johnson and Patrick Holt, of Benton, Ark., both sustained serious injuries in the accident. All four had been athletes at Missouri Southern.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this week in Greene County Circuit Court in Springfield. Defendants are listed as NOCI PCE LLC, the operator of the nightclub, as well as Jeremy Johnson, of Harrison, Ark. Attempts to reach them for comment were unsuccessful.

Dionna Johnson alleges in her lawsuit that the owners of Icon Nightclub, formerly located in downtown Springfield, should not have served alcohol to Jeremy Johnson, who was 19 at the time. Shannon Vahle, an attorney in Springfield who is representing the mother, could not be reached for comment Friday.

 There were no attorneys listed for the defendants yet.

According to the Missouri State Highway Patrol, the series of accidents began at about 2:30 a.m. Dec. 2, when a sport-utility vehicle driven by Jeremy Johnson ran off the westbound lanes into the median cables two miles east of Sarcoxie. The vehicle overturned and came to rest in the eastbound passing lane of the interstate.

Diondre Johnson was thrown from the vehicle, the patrol said. The patrol said McCrimmons and Holt were inside the sport-utility vehicle when it was struck by an eastbound tractor-trailer rig.

The patrol said Jeremy Johnson was walking across the eastbound driving lane to the highway shoulder when he was hit by an eastbound car.

Jeremy Johnson pleaded innocent in July to two charges of involuntary manslaughter related to the athletes’ deaths. A probable-cause statement on file in Jasper County Circuit Court alleged that his blood-alcohol content following the accident was 0.11 percent. The legal limit in Missouri for drivers is 0.08 percent. Springfield attorney Tyson Martin is representing Jeremy Johnson in his criminal case.

Jeremy Johnson is listed as a defendant in a separate wrongful-death lawsuit filed in Jasper County Circuit Court less than a month after the accident by Larry McCrimmons, the father of the second victim. Also listed as defendants are the company that owned the tractor-trailer rig that hit Johnson’s vehicle as well as the drivers of the tractor-trailer rig and the car that hit Jeremy Johnson as he was walking along the interstate.

In his lawsuit, McCrimmons alleges that Jeremy Johnson caused the accident because of negligence by driving at an excessive speed.

The Associated Press and Globe staff writer Emily Younker contributed to this report.

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