A North Dakota Highway Patrol trooper said it's not yet clear what is the root of multiple accidents that have occurred the past two days at a construction site on Highway 2 west of Grand Forks.
The latest was a fatal crash that occurred Friday morning, after authorities say an eastbound semi truck apparently rear-ended a vehicle, causing a chain-reaction crash that killed one and sent multiple others to the hospital. All told, eight vehicles were involved in the Friday incident.
“This is a total mess out here,” North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Jeff Bauske said a few hours after the crash, which occurred early Friday morning.
There were two other multi-vehicle crashes in a two-hour span Thursday afternoon.
Bauske said that as of early Friday afternoon, he couldn't speculate on why accidents were occurring at the intersection of Highway 2 and Airport Road. Bauske said the intersection has an active control signal, and is in nearly the same condition as last year, when the westbound lanes of Highway 2 were closed for construction. The eastbound lanes are closed this year. Bauske urged people to take all necessary caution while driving.
“We just ask, as troopers, that people pay attention to the posted speed limit, obey all traffic laws, don't drink and drive, don't abuse prescription drugs, wear the seatbelt and limit distractions in the vehicles,” he said.
The NDHP, he said, is actively patrolling the area as manpower allows, but troopers can't constantly remain nearby, as they need to answer calls elsewhere.
The chief deputy of the Grand Forks Sheriff’s Office said it was still difficult in the early stages of the investigation to determine how many cars were involved. Early anecdotal reports placed it as high as a dozen, but it later was determined to be eight.
“The number is fluctuating. It’s still an active scene,” said Chief Deputy David Stromberg. “We have cars all over the place and we’re trying to see which cars are damaged and which ones aren’t.
Also, “there were multiple people transported to the hospital,” said Stromberg, who declined to speculate on their condition.
A call came in around 7:25 a.m. of a reckless semi heading east in the construction zone just west of Grand Forks, NDHP said. About eight minutes later, the semi rear-ended multiple cars at the intersection of Highway 2 and Airport Road, sending of them off the road. An adult male in one of those cars died. The truck appears to be owned by a company in Minnesota.
Along with Friday's crash was an ancillary crash that happened nearby at a railroad crossing shortly after the pileup.
At 9:10 a.m. 34-year-old Ryan Wagner from Langdon, N.D. sustained life-threatening injuries after his Ram pickup was struck by a Burlington Northern Santa Fe train, at a train crossing just north of the intersection of 17th Street northeast and 17th Avenue northeast. According to a release from the NDHP, the southbound pickup broke apart and overturned after being struck by the train. The collision occurred after traffic was diverted from Highway 2, after the multi-vehicle crash Friday morning. The locomotive, which sustained moderate damage, was pulling 85 empty hopper cars. No crew members were injured.
Friday morning’s crashes came after two multi-car crashes were reported within hours of each other Thursday at or near the same location, where eastbound and westbound traffic are sharing the normal eastbound lanes.
The first Thursday crash occurred around 2:35 p.m. According to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, 41-year-old Heather Henson, of Grand Forks Air Force Base, and Grant Barker, 24, of Prior Lake, Minn., were driving their vehicles west on U.S. Highway 2. They were stopped in traffic for a red light and congestion due to the lane reduction.
Barker was stopped in the Toyota behind Henson’s Ford, according to the crash report.
The report claimed Betty Metcalf, 54, of Emerado, was driving a Chrysler west on Highway 2 and failed to observe traffic stopped ahead. The front of the Chrysler struck the rear of Barker’s Toyota, which pushed the front of the Toyota in the rear of Henson’s Ford.
Henson and her passengers, as well as Barker, were uninjured. Metcalf was transported by ambulance to Altru Hospital with minor injuries.
Westbound traffic was impeded for approximately 45 minutes.
The report shows pending driving under the influence charges for Metcalf.
The other three-car crash happened about two hours later. Kadin Visocsky, 20, of Grand Forks; Kayle Longtine, 26, also of Grand Forks; and Wesley Wolfgram, 86, of Niagara, N.D., were driving their respective vehicles east around 4:25 p.m. on Highway 2 about 3.5 miles west of Grand Forks.
Wolfgram and Longtine were slowing for traffic ahead as they approached the intersection with Airport Road, according to the NDHP report. The report said Visocsky was unable to adequately slow his vehicle in time to avoid a collision. The front of his GMC struck the rear of the Chevrolet driven by Longtine, and the front of the Chevrolet was pushed into the rear of the Subaru driven by Wolfgram.
No occupants were injured.
Visocsky is facing potential charges of following too closely, according to the accident report.