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A dozen cars ditched during Interstate 29 pileup Saturday, drivers may be fined or charged

Police say people were wandering the interstate asking for rides to the Morgan Wallen concert. Some requested their cars be towed to the Alerus Center.

Crash.jpg
A car damaged in a mult-vehicle crash on Interstate 29 Saturday, March 12.
Matt Henson / WDAY-TV
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GRAND FORKS — North Dakota Highway Patrol troopers say some drivers added extra chaos at an Interstate 29 pileup Saturday night, March 12. In all, about 20 cars collided.

It all started when two cars crashed near where two troopers had stopped a possible drunk driver in the northbound lane, just north of Thompson, North Dakota.

A Grand Forks County Sheriff's Deputy's squad was struck twice while diverting traffic. The deputy suffered a sore neck.

Four people did end up going to the hospital, but troopers say none of their injuries are serious.

"Nothing as extreme as what we saw," said Adam Berry of Interstate Towing.

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Berry has been with the towing company for 24 years.

Chanta Selmanson also works for Interstate towing. She was one of the first tow trucks on scene Saturday night.

After learning everyone was for the most part OK, her next thought was about the mess.

"How are we going to get this done quickly so we can get the highway back up and running," she recalled thinking.

With 20 cars either smashed up or stuck in the ditch, Interstate Towing was forced to run cars from the crash site back to their lot and then return to get another car.

"You got 10 trucks out there in a small area, you gotta try and configure where everybody is going to go, how everybody is going to do something," Selmanson said. "We had guys winching them out, so that the other ones could hook up while they start on another one."

Complicating the situation, it's believed most of the people were headed to the UND hockey game where attendance was 11,000, and the Morgan Wallen concert at the Alerus Center. 19,000 tickets for the concert were sold to people outside of Grand Forks.

"Our troopers did see people just leaving their vehicles, and just jumping in with someone who was maybe going to the same destination," said North Dakota Highway Patrol Lieutenant Troy Hischer.

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Troopers say more than a dozen cars were ditched at the crash site, slowing the investigation and removal of the cars by hours. Police say some requested their car be towed directly to the Alerus Center so they could get home after the concert.

For those who did leave their car on the interstate, the highway patrol says they shouldn't be surprised if they get a ticket with their tow bill. That could range from $50 to a misdemeanor for drivers who hit another car and left.

They could be docked 6 to 14 points off their license. A license is suspended after 12 points are lost.

"If you spend 200 bucks to get a concert ticket, they're probably thinking a lot about that $200 instead of the right thing, to stay with their vehicle," said Hischer.

Many of the videos show a number of people getting out of their cars to check on the people in the vehicle they just hit.

"The best place for you is inside the vehicle," Berry said. "You want to naturally get out and help other people, but you're not going to be helping anybody if you are dead."

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 mhenson@wday.com 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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