Injured athlete inspires friends

Tri-In for Team Livi plans return to Dewey Sprint Triathlon
September 20, 2018

In September 2017, Washington, D.C. interior designer Livi Pejo, then 26, traveled to Dewey Beach with friends to participate in her first triathlon.

An hour and 45 minutes after the race began, Pejo finished, coming in 10th in her age group and 127th overall among women. The next morning, as she walked to a corner store to buy a bottle of water, a driver swerved off the road and onto the sidewalk, crashing into her at high speed from behind.

Dewey Police Sgt. Cliff Dempsey said he viewed video surveillance footage of the Sept. 17, 2017 incident. “It was one of the worst things I’ve ever seen,” Dempsey said. “She never saw it coming.”

Pejo suffered extensive injuries to her brain, neck, spinal cord and internal organs, says, a website documenting her story and recovery. She spent two months at Christiana Hospital, then another six months in a Philadelphia rehabilitation center to continue therapies. She was finally released to her parents’ home in April 2018, still suffering from C1/C2 incomplete quadriplegia and using a mechanical ventilator, the website states.

Pejo’s friend Carmen Izurieta created a gofundme account to help with the family’s medical expenses. So far, nearly 400 people have donated $49,700 toward a $100,000 goal. Friends in the Washington, D.C. design industry also held a silent auction fundraiser June 28 to benefit Pejo.

Izurieta said with the help of the ventilator, Pejo can now talk and eat. “She continues to be social and enjoys going out on the town for dinner with family and friends,” Izurieta said. Pejo could not be reached for comment by press time.

Pejo’s friends will return to Dewey to compete in a future Dewey Sprint Triathlon in her honor.

Jackie Jenson competed with Pejo and another friend at last year’s event. “The group consists mostly of friends and people in the D.C. design industry who were inspired by Livi and want to try a triathlon for the first time as well,” Jenson said.

Court documents state the driver who hit Pejo, John Tai Johnson, now 30, of Wilmington, had PCP, cocaine and marijuana in his system at the time of the crash. For at least 11 days after the crash, Johnson was held at Dover Behavioral Health, where he was interviewed by Dewey police.

Dempsey said Dewey police charged Johnson with DUI, first-degree vehicular assault and criminal mischief, but no press release was issued. Sussex County Superior Court Judicial Case Processor Linda Baker said Johnson did not appear for a scheduled arraignment March 6, so a capias was issued for his arrest.

Spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections Nichole Hogan said Johnson  was sentenced to the State Correctional Institution in Dallas, Pa., April 13 for robbery. She said he could be released as early as Dec. 8, 2019, or as late as Dec. 8, 2022.

Dempsey said Johnson will be extradited to Delaware when released from Dallas SCI to face charges in the crash that injured Pejo.


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