Victim statements describe tragic aftermath of crash
The attorney for Willie Craft said Oct. 9, 2013, was the "worst day of his life" for his client. Dave Rumley conceded it was also the worst day in the lives of several people, including the women Craft killed and injured and their family and friends.
Victim impact statements submitted to Judge Richard Klaus bore out what Rumley said.
In a heart-wrenching flow of emotion, Zhi Liu wrote that "no words can possibly express the devastating loss" of his daughter.
"Our hearts are broken," Liu said of himself, his wife and their 12-year-old daughter. "We are unable to concentrate on anything other than the unnecessary suffering our daughter Mimi had to go through. Nothing can take it off of our minds. We are unable to eat and sleep well. We feel depressed. We frequently wake up at night, and we keep asking ourselves why," he wrote.
Liu was animated as he read his statement aloud for Klaus before a crowd of Craft's family and friends. His wife was in court with him.
Craft kept his eyes trained on Liu, both of them tearing up during Liu's delivery.
Liu said his daughter, a gifted pianist who had won scholarships, performed publicly often, including on a Chicago radio station.
"Mimi was an incredibly kind, sweet, fun-loving, amazing young woman with a big heart and a bright future," he said. Mimi "was always wanting to help other people whenever they were in need."
Liu said his daughter, born in Chicago, was fluent in English, Mandarin and Cantonese and was "a diligent student of Spanish."
Miss Liu was a junior who had recently transferred in to the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences. She was majoring in agricultural and consumer economics, with a concentration in agribusiness markets and management.
She was a member of the Asian American Student Association and the Minority Business Students Association.
Although Miss Liu did not know the other victim, they had things in common, like living in the same Champaign neighborhood.
Spandana Mantravadi, 20, also a UI junior, was working on a double major in accounting and finance.
She too was walking by herself on Lincoln Avenue just before 10 a.m. when she was hit by Craft's pickup truck. Urbana police investigator Dave Roesch said the women were likely within 10 feet of each other when they were struck in quick succession.
Urbana police investigator Dave Roesch said it was impossible to know with certainty who was hit first. Witnesses recalled details about the erratic driver as opposed to the victims, one of whom was seen flying through the air, he said.
After 17 days in Carle Hospital, Mantravadi was released.
She suffered debilitating injuries, including bleeding in the brain and a severely fractured right ankle. She can no longer exercise daily as she did prior to being hit, due to the constant pain in her ankle. She also has disfiguring scars.
Unable to care for herself, she was forced to withdraw from the UI for several months to recover at the California home of her parents, who reported incurring more than $79,000 in medical expenses and another $35,650 in out-of-pocket expenses resulting from the crash.
Mantravadi suffered cuts and scrapes over much of her body and described for the judge the "most excruciating pain" she has ever experienced from having those bandages changed.
She lost an entire semester of work and had to drop her finance major, delaying her eligibility for certification as a certified public accountant.
She also described the guilt she felt at surviving.
She reported difficulty "coping with ... sadness and anxiety and letting go (of) the inexplicably random nature of the accident." She recalled seeing Mimi Liu seated near her on the bus and she came to learn that Mimi lived across the street from her on campus and "thought of the traumatic accident and Mimi every day."
Although she returned to the UI, Mantravadi said she continues to suffer the physical and emotional impact of the crash.
"To this day, she has not again walked down Lincoln Avenue near the scene of the accident," she wrote.