116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Woman injured in fatal Cedar Rapids crash ‘healing well’
18-year-old remains in jail on charges related to October crash
CEDAR RAPIDS — On Oct. 24, Joanne Swenka, 73, was driving home from bingo night at St. Patrick Catholic Church in Cedar Rapids with her friend Judy Hoover, 77, in the passenger seat.
The BMW the two women were in was hit from behind by a Dodge Journey driven by 18-year-old Zawadi Christophe, who is accused of driving drunk, according to court documents.
The crash sent the BMW into oncoming traffic, where it was hit by another vehicle. Hoover died in the crash, and Swenka was seriously injured. She was taken to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City, where she was treated for a brain bleed, skull fractures, facial fractures, broken ribs, a collapsed lung, back and pelvis fractures, and blood in her abdomen.
Christophe was charged with homicide by vehicle-OWI, homicide by vehicle-reckless driving, serious injury by vehicle-OWI, serious injury by vehicle-reckless driving, driving under suspension and possession of marijuana.
Scott Swenka, Joanne Swenka’s son, started a GoFundMe page to help his family with medical expenses and to help Hoover’s family with funeral expenses. Both families received a lot of support from friends and community members after the crash.
What’s happened since
After multiple surgeries and recovery in the hospital, Joanne Swenka has returned home, according to her son, Scott.
“All her surgeries are healing nicely and faster than expected, which is what led them to accelerate her going home sooner. This isn’t to say that her road ahead of her isn’t still just as long, it just means that she is healing faster than expected,” Scott Swenka said.
Joanne’s husband, David Swenka, constructed some wheelchair ramps and other assistance devices for their home in Marion, and Joanne has a steady stream of visits from physical therapists and nurses coming to check on her healing.
Her ribs and her punctured lung are being allowed to heal on their own, and she’s been having some problems with vision — one eye isn’t following the movements of the other — and short-term memory. Often she’ll ask for food but forget what she asked for, so every plate she receives is a surprise, Scott said.
Joanne’s family informed her about Hoover’s death about a month ago, but occasionally she forgets and will ask how her friend is doing.
The community support has continued, Scott said. As of Dec. 22, the GoFundMe had raised a bit more than $1,000, and people have been supportive in other ways.
“We had several people offer to make meals for my dad and do yard work while he was traveling between Marion and Iowa City daily,” Scott said.
The investigation of the crash is ongoing, and all the vehicles involved still are impounded with the Cedar Rapids Police Department, according to Scott.
David Swenka purchased a new Ford F150 to replace their totaled BMW, because Joanne’s physical therapy team recommended getting a car that sits higher on the road.
Christophe remains in jail on a $120,000 cash-only bond. Earlier in December he filed a written arraignment pleading not guilty, and waived his right to a speedy trial. A trial date has not yet been set.
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