St. Louis police say “fixed barrier would have prevented” fatal bridge accident

ST. LOUIS – On July 23rd, 2018, a Chevy Malibu struck the bridge railing at Lindell and Union, just north of Forest Park. A one-ton pylon fell onto a passing vehicle on Forest Park Parkway, killing the driver of that car.

Twenty-two Damaya Love was driving the Malibu.

“I freaked out terribly because once I learned that I was ok, you know, instantly I started screaming because I knew there was other people involved,” she said. “I knew somebody had to have gotten hurt.”

Janet Torrisi-Mokwa died. She was a prominent local businesswoman and the wife of former St. Louis Police Chief Joe Mokwa.
“Even though it was an accident, knowing that somebody died because of that and I was behind the wheel of a car, that you know most likely they’re going to say was at fault? That is really scary to deal with and I felt like, you know, to honor that person, I’m just not going to drive anymore,” Love said.

Love disputed she had her phone out.

“It was in the cup holder the whole time. I only look at my phone for the GPS when I’m at a red light – that’s the only time,” she said. “I don’t have it in my hand. I don’t text people. I don’t call people, none of that. My eyes are on the road like they’re supposed to be.”

St. Louis police said they’re awaiting cell phone data to find out.

Love also said she was going under the 25 miles per hour speed limit.

“I clearly remember being between the speed of 15 and 20,” she said.

Police crash tests concluded she was traveling between “a speed of 14-28 mph.”

“For me to have come to a complete stop, waited at my light, blinker was on. I proceed to go and make my turn. I was not going that fast,” she said. “The last time I checked, no one was in front of me. No one was behind me and there was nobody coming forward from the other side of the road.”

She thinks her back tire was already up on the curb when she turned right onto Lindell.

“In the midst of me starting to speed up and get into my turn, that’s when it all happened. I ended up hopping the curb and I panicked a little because I saw people on the sidewalk. But you know I was trying to also control the car to keep from smooshing this man who was looking down on the bridge because I didn’t want to hit him.”

For a split second, Love said she was relieved when she thought she avoided hurting anyone. Plus, she didn’t strike the bridge railing hard enough for her airbag to deploy.

“I thought ok, you know, it’s just a bridge. It’s not gonna - I didn’t do any complete damage until I saw it crumble - and just a big chunk just – whoosh,” she said. “You would think that a semi-truck hit that.”

The police report lays more blame on the bridge wall, documenting it as “not a fixed one, but a yielding one.”

An officer added in the police report, “it is reasonable to believe a fixed barrier would have prevented the collapsing...and unequivocally the fatal injuries to Torrisi-Mokwa.' Fox 2 obtained the police report after we interviewed Love, so we did not ask her directly about police findings that she was unlicensed and uninsured. She did, however, talk about her inexperience driving.

“That was one of my biggest things with learning how to drive was to work on my turns because I was a new driver,” she said. “I have had minor cases where I’ve accidentally drove up on the curb, but it was never enough to smack anything.”

Meanwhile, the St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office is considering charging Love criminally for being unlicensed and uninsured.