116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - An Illinois murder defendant out on bail was driving the wrong way in downtown's infamous S-curve early Sunday when he smashed into an oncoming sport utility vehicle, trapping three people inside and killing a fourth, according to court records and police.
The wrong-way driver, identified by authorities as Tyler S. Lee, 34, of Rockton, Ill., received minor injuries and was taken to a hospital for treatment. He has not been charged in the crash, which remains under investigation.
The crash killed a front-seat passenger of the SUV, identified Monday as David Phuong Nguyen, 23, of Cedar Rapids. Rescuers had to extricate three others from the crumpled SUV, one with serious injuries.
Investigators said the crash occurred at 2:05 a.m. Sunday on northbound Interstate 380 just north of the Seventh Street NE exit ramp.
Lee was the sole occupant of a Ford F-150 pickup truck that was driving southbound in the northbound lanes, Cedar Rapids police said.
The pickup struck a 2007 Chevrolet Suburban driven by Rylee Brooke Wallingford, 20, of Cedar Rapids. She was seriously injured and remained Monday at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, police said.
Rylee's sister, Addysen Wallingford, said Monday that Rylee and Nguyen had been dating for about five months.
He enjoyed fixing cars and renovating houses, Addysen said. He had recently purchased a house and was finishing work on his old house, getting it ready to sell.
'He had really become a piece of our family,” Addysen said. 'He was quiet but very kind and a caring good guy. He cared deeply about his friends and family.”
Police identified the back-seat passengers as Benjamin Phillip Brecht, 23, and Skyler McDowell, 22, both of Cedar Rapids. Police said one of the back-seat passengers, who appeared to be OK at the scene, was later taken to a hospital by a private vehicle.
Addysen Wallingford said her sister had undergone one surgery at UIHC and was facing another, and then a long road to recovery.
Police said it is unclear how long Lee had been driving the wrong way before the crash. The nearest ramp north of the Seventh Street NE exit is H Avenue NE.
The police department declined to give more details, including whether investigators suspect alcohol or drugs were involved, citing the ongoing investigation.
Records show Lee currently is a defendant in a murder case out of Winnebago County Illinois.
According to the Winnebago County Circuit Court Clerk's Office, he is charged with first-degree murder and 11 other offenses stemming from a fatal shooting in Loves Park, a small city about 80 miles northwest of Chicago.
The Rockford Register Star reported that Loves Park officers responded about 4 a.m. May 20, 2017, to a shooting, where they found 38-year-old Christopher Peters dead.
Police said Lee and Peters were involved in an altercation when the shooting occurred.
Lee was arrested later that same day when police raided his residence and said they confiscated quantities of cocaine and marijuana, as well as marijuana plants.
Court records show Lee was charged in connection with the drugs, but the homicide-related charges came later.
The circuit court clerk's office said a bill of indictment charging Lee with murder was filed Nov. 1, 2017, and his bail was set at $1 million.
He later was released when $100,000 - or 10 percent - of his bail was posted, according to the clerk's office.
Cedar Rapids police did not comment Monday on the Illinois case.
Crash reconstruction specialists are investigating the fatal wreck. police said. Once the investigation is complete, the findings will be submitted to the Linn County Attorney's Office.
The S-curve around downtown is perhaps best known as the site of automated traffic cameras that flag speeding vehicles to be issued tickets later.
Late last month, Cedar Rapids Police Chief Wayne Jerman told a legislative subcommittee considering banning most traffic cameras in Iowa - except those in the S-curve - that the devices have helped greatly reduce crashes in the curve in the decade since they were installed.
Sunday's fatality in the S-curve was the was the first since March 4, 2019, when a 59-year old man lost control of his vehicle on I-380 northbound near the First Avenue W on-ramp, struck a guardrail and flipped over it and landed below.
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