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Man using phone in fatal accident: 'Is it worth it?'

Chris Weber listens to a reporter's question Monday, June 1, 2015, while discussing a 2014 accident that occurred when he was using a mobile telephone. His vehicle struck and killed a woman in southwest Minnesota. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/Don Davis

Chris Weber boiled down his life-changing decision 11 months ago to one question: "Is that cellphone worth more than the life next to you?"

The widower of the woman Weber's vehicle struck and killed June 30, 2014, had the answer: "Put that phone away."

Weber got out of the Nobles County Jail on Friday on a manslaughter charge of killing Andrea Boeve in rural Rock County last year. On Monday, he went in front of reporters in St. Paul to tell his story in hopes that no one else makes the mistake of driving while distracted.

Even changing stations on the radio could distract a driver too long, he said.

"I picked up that phone to make that call" to some bank, he said. "Worst mistake of my life."

Weber said he looked up when he heard a thud, then saw a bicycle in his rearview mirror.

He and a passerby tried to save Boeve's life. "We were unsuccessful."

The mistake changed two families.

The victim's husband, Matt Boeve, released a statement saying that everyone should watch a video that features him and Weber.

"My hope is that this video will send a powerful message that no call or text is worth taking another person's life on the road," Boeve said in a statement. "Before this crash, that could easily have been me, but no longer do I use my cellphone while driving and I plea for everyone on the road to put the phone down."

Weber admitted from the first time he talked to authorities after the accident that he was conducting a bank transaction on his telephone at the time his pickup struck Andrea Boeve, 33, while riding her bicycle on Minnesota 270 near Steen. She was hit from behind while towing her daughters in a child bike trailer.

Then-4-year-old Claire Boeve was treated for a broken rib and punctured lung, and then-1-year-old Mallorie Boeve was treated for minor injuries and released.

Weber lived in Hills, Minn., at the time of the accident, but has since returned to his native South Dakota.

En route to meeting with reporters Monday morning, Weber said, he saw a women turning in St. Paul, talking on a cellphone and not paying attention to traffic. "It makes me sick" when he sees a driver using a phone, he said.

He said he wanted to tell her to "put that phone away. It can wait. Learn from my example."

Weber said he plans to visit groups and tell them his story and let them know the dangers of distracted driving. He wants to target young people, he said, because they are so into electronic devices.

State officials say 60 deaths and 225 serious injuries can be blamed on distracted driving, which Col. Matt Langer, chief of the Minnesota State Patrol, said could include things such as texting, dealing with children fighting in the back seat, drinking or eating, plugging information into a global positioning system device and talking on the telephone.

Weber, who has a 3-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter, said he thinks about the accident every day.

"I don't know how Matt can do it by himself," he said of the widower who prefers not to talk to reporters.

In the State Patrol video, Matt Boeve said: "This doesn't have to happen to anyone again."

Weber delivers his own testimony in the video, saying that his choice to make a call is one "I can't take back. ... That day, I felt like I failed. I was distracted that day."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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