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Semi driver facing multiple felonies in deadly Highway 2 crash last July

According to documents filed with the Grand Forks County District Court, Steven Piechowski, 55, of Felton, Minnesota, is facing one charge of manslaughter, three charges of aggravated assault and one charge of reckless endangerment, with extreme indifference.

Car crash
A multiple-vehicle crash Friday morning on U.S. Highway 2 in a construction zone about three miles west of Grand Forks resulted in one death and multiple injuries.
Matt Henson / WDAY News
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GRAND FORKS — A Minnesota man has been charged with multiple felonies from an eight-vehicle crash on Highway 2 near Grand Forks International Airport, on July 2, 2021.

According to documents filed with the Grand Forks County District Court on May 17, Steven Piechowski, 55, of Felton, Minnesota, is facing one charge of manslaughter, three charges of aggravated assault and one charge of reckless endangerment with extreme indifference. Piechowski is also facing two misdemeanor assault charges.

According to the Highway Patrol, Piechowski was driving a 1998 Volvo semi east on Highway 2 early last July. Officers received a report that the semi was swerving and driving on the rumble strips of the highway at about 7:30 a.m. Shortly thereafter, the crash, which caused a chain reaction, occurred in a construction zone at the intersection of Highway 2 and Airport Road, where seven vehicles were stopped at a red light on the west side of the intersection, waiting to travel east.

“It is clear that Piechowski’s attention was not focused on the roadway and the traffic,” reads a portion of the affidavit filed with the court by the Highway Patrol.

Eric Jayne, 61, of Des Moines, Iowa, died in the crash, after being struck by Piechowski. Sally Cooper Smith, 61, of Des Moines, who was riding in Jayne’s car was injured. Five occupants of three other vehicles suffered either serious or substantial injuries.

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According to the affidavit, Piechowski is being charged with reckless endangerment because of his driving behavior. There was no evidence at the crash scene to support that he tried braking prior to impact. The affidavit also mentions that, when interviewed, Piechowski stated that he was looking down prior to the crash.

The manslaughter charge is a Class B felony and carries a maximum sentence of up to 10 years in prison or a $20,000 fine, or both. The three aggravated assault charges and the reckless endangerment charge are Class C felonies, which carry a maximum of five years in prison or a $10,000, or both.

READ MORE CRIME AND COURTS COVERAGE HERE
Police have been searching for Elle Ragin, 6, since her mother, Lisa Wade, 39, was found dead of an apparent suicide on July 2 in her Northfield home.

Related Topics: CRASHESCRIME AND COURTS
Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at akurtz@gfherald.com, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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