2 children killed, 1 child and 2 adults injured in U.S. 2 collision west of GFThe angle collision of a semi-truck and a passenger van Wednesday morning on U.S. Highway 2 in the intersection outside the Grand Forks International Airport killed two small children and injured a third child, as well as both adult male drivers.
By: Stephen J. Lee, Grand Forks Herald
The angle collision of a semi-truck and a passenger van Wednesday morning on U.S. Highway 2 in the intersection outside the Grand Forks International Airport killed two small children and injured a third child, as well as both adult male drivers.
A North Dakota Highway Patrol officer in Grand Forks said the names of the victims will not be released until this morning.
One of the children was ejected from van, which took the impact on the driver’s side centered on the passenger compartment, officials said.
The children, younger than 10, and the 39-year-old driver of the GMC Safari van are from rural Grand Forks. The truck driver, 64, is from Jamestown, N.D.
It happened at 9:57 a.m. Wednesday at the intersection of Highway 2 and Grand Forks County Road 5, the airport road, 3 miles west of Interstate 29, the Patrol said.
The 2005 Volvo tractor truck, pulling a van trailer, was eastbound on Highway 2 when it collided with the 2005 GMC van that was northbound on County Road 5. The collision happened in the eastbound lane of Highway 2 at the intersection. The van ended up facing south in the median of Highway 2 on the east side of the intersection, with its left side very damaged.
The truck had extensive front-end damage.
The two injured drivers and the injured child were taken to Altru Hospital.
The driver of the van owns a business with his father west of the airport. He was at Altru on Wednesday night and declined to comment.
The truck driver was treated and released Wednesday evening and returned to Jamestown.
The roadway was in “fair winter” driving condition at the time of the collision, the Patrol reported.
Roadways have been icy, especially at intersections, since the heavy snowfall Monday night into Tuesday, and Highway 2 had icy spots Wednesday afternoon at several intersections west of Grand Forks.
The Patrol said it wasn’t known if the van’s driver and passengers were wearing seat belts and/or restraints.
The truck driver was pulling a UPS van trailer, bound from Minot, owned by Wiest Truck Line in Jamestown, N.D., owner Jon Wiest said.
The driver was released Wednesday night from Altru Hospital, Wiest said.
“They gave him some sedatives to calm him down,” Wiest said. “I don’t know how bad he was hurt physically, but he was pretty shook up.”
The trucking company’s safety manager drove up to Grand Forks and took the driver home to Jamestown, Wiest said, who expressed sadness at the deaths of the two young children.
“What a tragedy at this time of year,” Wiest said.
Details of what happened weren’t available Wednesday from the Patrol or the drivers.
The intersection of Highway 2 and the airport road has an unusual set of lights, with a series of flashing yellow lights along Highway 2 approaching the intersection’s regular traffic lights from either direction.
The yellow flashing lights come on several hundred yards ahead of the intersection to warn highway drivers that the intersection’s green light is about to change to yellow, then red.
The north-south airport road doesn’t have the extra flashing yellow lights, just the regular traffic light. The speed limit on Highway 2 goes to 70 mph west of the intersection for westbound traffic; it’s 55 mph east of the intersection, and from about a quarter mile west of the intersection for eastbound drivers.
In other words, the speed limit for any eastbound vehicle, such as the Volvo truck, entering the intersection on Highway 2 is 55 mph.
The speed limit on the airport road approaching Highway 2 from the south is 55 mph.
The intersection gained lights after a public battle waged by the parents of a Grand Forks teen who was injured in a crash in 1991. The girl’s mother, attorney Shirley Jahnke, argued the intersection was unsafe without lights.
The traffic to the airport crossing Highway 2 has became unusually high the past 25 years because of the growth in UND’s aviation programs, increasing the numbers of students traveling to and from the airport.
Jahnke convinced state authorities to change their long-term plans for the intersection. In 1993, a set of temporary lights was installed at the intersection, later replaced by the current set. Before, the intersection had only stop signs on the north-south airport road.
There has been discussion about eventually putting in an overpass at the intersection.