Minnesota State Troopers were out 600-strong--every single one of them--on the highways on Maroon Day (Thursday, June 30)--traditionally the deadliest traffic day of the year. They pulled over 2,502 people and made 22 arrests for drunk driving.
Even so, two people were killed on Minnesota highways on Maroon Day, and five more died over the rest of the holiday weekend.
The most bizarre accident was the case of 21-year-old Adam Christopher Nayquonabe, who crawled across Highway 169 on his hands and knees just north of Mille Lacs Casino around 11:30 p.m. on Maroon Day.[jump]
Nayquonabe was intoxicated and dressed in dark clothing, and it appears that the driver who hit him didn't have a chance to swerve.
"An extremely drunk person crawling out on a roadway in the middle of the night is not one of those things that--from a traffic safety perspective, there's not a lot you can do about that," says Lt. Eric Roeske of the Minnesota State Patrol.
Here's the stretch of highway where the unfortunate young man was killed:
In total, there were 92 crashes reported on state roads Thursday which, in addition to killing two, left 21 others injured. We can't tell you the total number of crashes June 30 through July 4th, because the people who keep track of those numbers are off work due to the state government shutdown.
But the fatal crashes read like a sad litany of lost life due to not following basic safety instructions. "Usually it boils down to the same things: alcohol, seat belts, speed, not paying attention--or a combination of the four," Roeske says.
The second Maroon Day fatality was Troy Wolfgang Bargel, 43, of Eagan, who died after the motorcycle he was driving north on Pilot Knob Road in Apple Valley crashed into a pickup. Bargel was not wearing a helmet.
On Monday, 4th of July morning, an adult and two children died after their vehicle rolled into the Sauk River near County Road 75. Authorities found the submerged vehicle around 2 a.m. The driver, 21-year-old Lam Le, 21, of St. Cloud, was dead. Two children, 13-year-old Carrie Ngo and 5-year-old Ethan Ngo, were taken by ambulance to St. Cloud Hospital where they later died.
The deaths continued on Monday night, when Melvin Schermann, 51, of Lakeville, drove his motorcycle into a guard rail on southbound 35W just south of County Road 42. He, too, was not wearing a helmet.
And then last night at about 7 p.m., a Volkswagen Jetta rolled over on Highway 63 at Wabasha County, ejecting two people who weren't wearing their seatbelts--including Garrett Steiger, 20, of Rochester, who died at the scene.
"The two surviving people had alcohol in their system, but both are denying being the person driving the vehicle," says Roeske.