Woman killed after man crashes truck into Huntsville house

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Huntsville Police say a woman died late Saturday night after a man crashed a truck into a house on Riverchase Road.

Lt. Michael Johnson with Huntsville Police said the crash happened just before midnight. According to Johnson, 53-year-old Antony Wu was traveling southbound on Chaney Thompson Road when the 1996 Dodge Ram he was driving ran off the side of the road. Police said the truck ran into multiple yards, hitting a fence and an unoccupied vehicle, before crashing into a house and hitting 48-year-old Joy Vaughn.

Antony Wu

Police said Vaughn was sleeping inside the house at the time of the crash. She was later pronounced dead at Huntsville Hospital.

Wu was taken to Huntsville Hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. He was later taken into custody and charged with manslaughter.

Authorities believe drugs and alcohol were a factor in the crash. A search warrant was obtained to take a sample of his blood for analysis.

Gary Swearengin lives next door to Joy and her sister Jessica.

"I thought something had blown up in the garage," Swearengin said. "Cause I looked out the back door and I couldn't see anything. So I went through the garage and I came around here. That's when I heard Jessica hollering for her sister. She told me she's trapped under the truck."

He says he called 911 and tried to get to Joy, but the truck was blocking the way.

"He had blood all over his face and he was just, I'll never forget his eyes they were really wild, he fought the police all the way out," he said.

Swearengin said Wu would not get out of the car, and looked like he was hiding something in his hand.

"It was an ice pick, and the policeman grabbed it cause they pinned his arm down to the ground, grabbed it and he broke it with his hand, and they threw it. It's still in there," he said. "And they handcuffed him and he was still fighting them. He wouldn't get up, he wouldn't walk on his own. He was barefoot."

All the while emergency responders were working to find Joy in the wreckage, searching "in the front of the truck, through both bathroom walls in the front bedroom," he said.

Swearengin said this was tragic, especially for a woman who had already been through so much. Telling us Vaughn graduated from Baylor. She was a teacher in Chicago when her life changed during a field trip to Costa Rica.

"And while she was there she went kayaking, white water rafting, on a kayak. And it flipped over and she couldn't right it, she couldn't get it back up. So they finally rescued her, but she was underwater too long and didn't have enough oxygen, so part of her brain died, so she was disabled," Swearengin said.

Now, after her loss, his life is altered too.

"It was devastating to me, that I couldn't get to her. I'll live with that for the rest of my life," he said.

If there is comfort to be found, it lies in hopes Vaughn didn't suffer.

"I just pray to God that she didn't wake up," said Swearengin. He said her family is together, and the neighborhood is thinking of them.

WHNT News 19 also spoke with Joy's sister Jessica. She said because of that serious brain injury from when she was 24, Joy was constantly in the care of Jessica, her father and other sister.

According to Jessica, Joy was staying at her house while her other sister was visiting her husband in Missouri. She said of her loss, "She was greatly loved and will be missed more than I can express."

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