A plea deal means a term of slightly less than six years for the driver of that Michigan fire apparatus that crashed last summer on Interstate 35W in Blaine, killing two brother firefighters.
Michael A. Johnson, 29, of the Upper Peninsula city of Baraga, pleaded guilty in Hennepin County District Court to two counts of criminal vehicular homicide and one count of criminal vehicular operation in connection with the crash on Aug. 27, 2016. Seven related felony counts were dismissed.
With credit for time in jail after his arrest, Johnson will serve the first 3¾ years or so in prison and the balance of the 5¾-year term on supervised release. Sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 9.
Johnson told authorities he was sleep-deprived and nodded off before the rig went out of control. He also admitted to using marijuana and cocaine in the days and hours before the crash.
Johnson was among 9 firefighters from his community en route to help fight the Box Canyon wildfire in Utah when the truck struck the median cable barriers and rolled. Alan Swartz, 25, and James Shelifoe Jr., 23, also of Baraga, were killed. The others on the truck survived their injuries.
A witness traveling in the same direction told authorities he estimated the truck’s speed at 80 to 90 miles per hour in the 70 mph zone and had noticed Johnson’s rig swerve multiple times.