Third person dies in wake of Saturday crash in downtown Grand Forks

In total, three people have died in the accident, which occurred shortly before 12:30 p.m. on Saturday.

011021 N GFH 5THDEMERSCRASH Crash01.jpg
The intersection of North Fifth Street and DeMers Avenue is blocked off following a multiple-car collision early Saturday afternoon in downtown Grand Forks. Nick Nelson / Grand Forks Herald
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The driver of the vehicle that caused a deadly Saturday, Jan. 9, traffic accident in downtown Grand Forks has died of her injuries, and police believe alcohol may have played a role in the accident.

In total, three people have died in the accident, which occurred shortly before 12:30 p.m. on Saturday. The Grand Forks Police Department, in a Sunday news release, identified Jenessa Kelley, age 21, of Crookston, Minn., as the driver of the Buick Regal that police say caused the crash.

According to the release, the vehicle driven by Kelley matches the description of a vehicle involved in a hit-and-run accident in East Grand Forks. According to the police report, witness accounts indicate the Buick was heading westbound on DeMers Avenue at an extremely high rate of speed just prior to the initial collision.

Kelley was traveling in the center turn lane of DeMers, when she struck a Chevrolet Impala, and caused minor damage. The driver of the Impala has been identified as Trisha Trousil, 42, of Oslo, Minn. Kelley then struck a Ford Explorer driven by Amanda Green, 45, of Grand Forks. Green was attempting to turn south onto Fifth Street when her vehicle was hit. The drivers of those vehicles did not suffer injuries that required transportation to Altru Hospital.

Kelley then struck a Dodge Caravan driven by Laura Van Erem, 52, of Fertile, Minn., who was pronounced dead at the scene. The front-seat passenger of the Caravan has been identified as Nancy Sand, 72, also of Fertile. Sand also was pronounced dead at the scene.


Two passersby assisted a teen passenger from the Caravan. Renee Volker, who witnessed the accident, said she and a man helped the teen away from the vehicle, and then covered her with their coats. She told the Herald she spoke to the passenger in hopes of keeping her calm, before she was taken to Altru Hospital. The passenger has not been identified.

A passenger in Kelley’s vehicle also was taken to the hospital for injuries sustained in the crash. Information about the condition of the passengers was not readily available Sunday afternoon.

“We consider those (two) to be witnesses at this point,” said Lt. Derik Zimmel, of the Grand Forks Police Department. Zimmel added that it is policy not to release information about witnesses.

Evidence collected at the scene of the crash suggests alcohol may have played a role in this incident, according to the police report.

According to GFPD, the incident remains under active investigation. Police are encouraging anyone with information on this or any related incident to contact the Grand Forks Police Department by one of the following methods:

Call: 701-787-8000

Online: Submit a tip via the GFPD’s Facebook or website

App: Submit a tip via the Tip411 app


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, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

Desk: 701-780-1110
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