Family approves legal settlement three years after crash
By SHELLY WILKISON
While questions remain unanswered three years after a Liberty Hill High School student lost his life in a car crash, his family says they have given up hope of finding evidence showing their son was not to blame.
About 3:30 p.m. on March 13, 2010, E.J. Johnston was returning home from Saturday training at Austin’s Camp Mabry when his 2005 Ford Focus
collided almost head on with a Toyota driven by Judith Fleming of Austin. According to a report filed by the Texas Department of Public Safety, the crash occurred when Johnston, who was travelling north on US Highway 183, crossed into the southbound lanes near the CEFCO convenience store just south of Seward Junction. Mrs. Fleming was traveling southbound. The investigating officer said there were no witnesses to the crash.
Sustaining serious head trauma, Johnston survived 12 days in an Austin hospital where family and heartbroken classmates kept a constant vigil praying for a miracle. He passed away on March 25, 2010, afer his family made the painful decision to remove his life support. Johnston was never counsious after the crash.
On the third anniversary of his death Monday, Tess Johnston said her family’s insurance company had settled a lawsuit two weeks ago with Mrs. Fleming. Mrs. Johnston said it was time to move on.
“We still don’t know exactly what happened, but we agreed to the decision because we wanted to close the case and move on,” she said. “We had nothing to prove it wasn’t EJ’s fault.
“There’s still something missing in the picture,” Mrs. Johnston said, referring to the officer’s accident report and video taken at the convenience store. Vehicles are seen entering and exiting the parking lot, but the camera did not record the crash. She said the video showed “a lady trying to explain something to another guy who had pulled over. You can’t see clearly the lady’s face.”
Mrs. Johnston said she attempted to communicate with Mrs. Fleming through the Johnstons’ attorney looking for some explanation as to how the wreck occurred. The Johnstons received no response until they were served with a lawsuit in 2012 blaming their son for the crash that took his own life.
“There’s never going to be any closure,” Mrs. Johnston said. “But now the pain is more manageable.”
The Johnston family is adopting Mrs. Johnston’s 12-year-old niece from the Philippines and will bring her to Liberty Hill in May.
“I’m excited to have another member of the family here,” said Mrs. Johnston, a native of the Philippines. She said she is looking forward to having a little girl in the house — an adoption that has been in the works for five years. The Johnstons’ youngest son, Jonathan, is attending the University of Texas at San Antonio.
In their son’s memory, Tess and Jon Johnston award a college scholarship to a LHHS senior every year. They also fund full college scholarships for two students in the Philippines.
“He (E.J.) said when he grew up he wanted to help the kids there. He planned to be a doctor,” she said.
Mrs. Johnston still visits her son’s gravesite almost every day. She keeps E.J.’s bedroom just like he left it his last day at home.
“I dust it and sweep it. All of his clothes are there just as he left it,” she said. “Sometimes I close his door and say goodnight, pretending he’s still here.”