Family of veterinarian killed in Highway 2 pileup wants judge to reject plea deal for semi driver

Judge Jason McCarthy will decide whether 60 days in jail is an appropriate sentence for 55-year-old Steven Piechowski. The crash killed a world-recognized veterinarian and injured several others.

Dr. Eric Jayne
Dr. Eric Jayne
Contributed / Andrea Jayne

GRAND FORKS — A grieving family is pleading with a Grand Forks County judge to reject a controversial plea deal connected to a deadly crash in a construction zone on U.S. Highway 2 .

The family of Eric Jayne says the deal on the table isn't good enough. The veterinarian from Iowa, who is known around the world, was going to grab a cup of coffee when his car was struck from behind by a semitrailer on July 2, 2021.

Jayne, 61, was in town to work on a clinic reconstruction project.

Andrea Jayne says that since he was a little boy, her older brother was always holding a creature of some kind.

"He always had lots of critters, we had cats, a lot of cats, and he always had like turtles and fish and salamanders, snakes so his room was like a zoo," she said.


He was a veterinarian not to make money, but to provide low-cost care, claiming many in his profession were gouging animal owners.

He created mobile spay and neuter clinics across North America to control the pet population. Dr. Jayne spent a lot of time in Alaska serving as a vet for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

He also focused of rural communities there, earning the name "The Bush Vet" as he traveled to remote villages to treat animals.

"A lot of times, he would do it for a jar of jam or something like that, or a pie or whatever they could afford to give him," Andrea said.

Dr. Jayne also obtained a degree in Indigenous law. He was curious to know why Indigenous communities lacked proper basic veterinary care for animals, and created the non-profit Sovereign Nations Veterinary.

"They were in dire need of veterinary care for their animals. They have a lot of feral and over populations of animals in their communities," Andrea said.

Dr. Jayne's work to help others came to an end when his car was the first struck by a semitrailer on U.S. Highway 2 by the Grand Forks airport, causing the massive pileup.

He was killed and several others were hurt when troopers say 55-year-old Steven Piechowski of Felton, Minnesota, was hauling asphalt for a construction project. They say Piechowski never braked and was looking down when he slammed into a line of cars that had stopped for a red light.


Troopers say 10 minutes before the crash, someone called the patrol because Piechowski was driving on and off the highway.

In December, Piechowski accepted a plea deal that calls for him to serve 60 days in jail and 60 days of home confinement.

Andrea Jayne wants the judge to reject it, saying that's only a slap on the hand for Piechowski.

"I'm not sure this man (Piechowski) understands the impact he's made on a large portion of the population with not just humans, but animals as well," she said.

The family says they are pleading for proper justice for a veterinarian who was committed to helping others across the world.

"Everything was just so unfinished, he was just beginning to really go somewhere with his work," Andrea said.

Judge Jason McCarthy will decide on Feb. 17 whether or not to accept the plea deal.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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