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While the whole state saw a reduction in highway deaths, there was for the second year in a row a significant increase in these deaths in Freeborn county. Freeborn County went from four deaths in 2007 to 10 in both 2008 and 2009.

The Albert Lea Tribune looked at each of the deaths:

Feb. 1: 44-year-old Andrew Waalkens of Hartland died as a result of injuries sustained in a vehicle rollover on Minnesota Highway 13 north of Manchester.

Waalkens was wearing his seat belt and no alcohol was detected.

• April 9: Carol Jean Cramer, 45, of Riceville, Iowa, died at the scene of a rollover near the intersection of Freeborn County Road 13 and Freeborn County Road 34 in London Township.

Cramer was the front-seat passenger in the automobile and was pronounced dead at the scene. She was ejected from the automobile, according to reports.

• May 29: Blue Earth man Jose Ignacio Martinez-Navidad, 48, died as a result of a crash at the corner of Freeborn County Road 46 and 700th Avenue when his motorcycle ran into a vehicle driven by Marvin William Steinhauer, 86, Albert Lea.

Steinhauer faces charges of vehicular homicide and drunken driving from the incident.

• Aug. 19: Four people died in a three-vehicle crash on Interstate 90 just west of the State Highway 13 intersection.

The collisions happened within visible distance of the Super America gas station near the junction of I-90 and Minnesota Highway 13. The I-90 overpass of Highway 13 remained closed for several hours until maintenance vehicles removed wreckage and the team could reconstruct the crash. Traffic was rerouted.

The Minnesota State Patrol’s report on the quadruple fatality was still ongoing at the end of 2009. It often takes several months before it reaches the county attorney’s office.

It was the deadliest automobile crash since Sept. 4, 1988.

• Sept. 17: Dillon J. Gordon, 28, of Alden, died at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester from injuries sustained in a motorcycle crash Sept. 9 near Gordonsville.

Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office reports stated Gordon missed a curve on Freeborn County Road 1 — aka State Line Road — and struck a sign on the 797th Avenue corner. The curve is about a mile west of Gordonsville.

• Nov. 18: Two people died and 21 were injured when a tour bus owned by Strain Motorcoach Tours of Rochester rolled over on Interstate 90 in Freeborn County three miles west of Austin.

The bus was headed back to Rochester after four hours at Diamond Jo Casino in Iowa, when driver Ed Erickson of Elgin suffered a chest aneurysm.

While each of the deaths were separate, there is concern by the sheriff department, with a hope that this is just a short aberration. Alcohol and seat belts played a role in some of these deaths, thus there can be an expected increased law enforcement effort.

As with any death in a Minnesota motor vehicle collision, there are a number of issues that will need to be reviewed. My partner, Joe Crumley, addressed this topic in a recent article for the Minnesota Lawyers Trial magazine. I was interviewed last year on the same topic.

I- 90 is one of the highways we will be talking more about here at the Injuryboard. As always if you are in an accident and need legal services we encourage you to call us sooner, rather than later. In Texas contact Brooks Schuelke for assistance. In Iowa we recommend you call upon Steve Lombardi with Lombardi Law Firm for legal advice. In Oklahoma Noble McIntyre serves those with Oklahoma collision or accident questions.

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