BRYAN COUNTY, Ga. — Megan Richards, a nursing student who survived a crash that killed five of her friends, took the stand in her civil trial Thursday.
Richards, one of two girls to survive the crash, was a passenger in one of two cars filled with nursing students when a tractor-trailer slammed into the back of them in April 2015.
Truck driver John Wayne Johnson pleaded guilty to several charges, including five counts of first-degree vehicular homicide, and is serving five years in jail for the crash.
The trucking company, Total Transportation of Mississippi, has already admitted responsibility for the wreck and reached multi-million dollar settlements with one survivor and the families of the other students.
Richards and her family are asking the trucking company and its parent company, U.S. Express, for compensation for the injuries she suffered in the horrific crash, and the ongoing pain she lives with every day.
“I would pray all the time because I thought I was going to die young,” Richards said.
Richards' lawyers said she still suffers from a traumatic brain injury.
“Not every day is the worst day of my life, but a lot of days are bad, but it's the good days that make it worth it,” Richards said in court.
- April 22, 2015: 5 Georgia Southern students killed, 2 injured in crash
- April 27, 2015: Troopers interview truck driver in deadly crash with GSU students
- April 21, 2016: Settlement reached in wrongful deaths of Georgia Southern nursing students
- July 14, 2016: Truck driver sentenced for crash that killed 5 nursing students
- January 18, 2017: Truck driver who caused crash that killed nursing students weeps in court
Richards told friends she sometimes feels guilty for surviving the crash.
“I stay hopeful. I'm a Christian and I believe that maybe I did live for a reason and he'll help me and I'll make a big difference as a nurse but sometimes I can't help but think about how it's changed me and how hard it will be,” she said.
Richards’ roommate, Caroline Coon, also testified about the nightmares Richards still has two years after the crash.
“She is scared to sleep along because her dreams are so scary and she wakes up in a puddle of sweat and she’s dreaming about the girls in the car with her,” Coon said. “She has this fear of dying and she doesn’t like to be alone when she sleeps.”
Family and friends say her personality has changed since the crash.
“Her anxiety controls her weekly plans,” Coon said.
“A lot of anxiety. She’s depressed, she’s not social,” her father, Dalton Richards, said.
Richards told the jury she’s afraid that the ordeal will prevent her from becoming the pediatric nurse she has aspired to be.
“As a nurse, you have to be calm and be able to support people at their worst, so I don’t want to be crying in front of the patient,” she said.
The defense pointed out that Megan Richards graduated on the dean’s list from nursing school, despite the crash. They also talked in detail about the number of trips she has been on in the past year and went through photos on her social media sites.
Richards has also been hired by a Savannah hospital to work as a pediatric nurse.
“I’m blessed to have gone on these trips because they’ve cheered me up and they’ve shown me light in the darkness. And I know that this is your defense, that I graduated nursing school and I’ve been on some fun trips, but at the end of the day that doesn’t say anything about what I’ve been through and what I continue to go through,” Richards said.
The jury returns Friday morning. Defense attorneys told the judge they expect to have two or three more witnesses take the stand. The judge expects to charge the jury Friday.
Stay with WSBTV.com and Channel 2 Action News for complete coverage from inside the courtroom.
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