Two killed in separate crashes off state Highway 61A woman was killed north of Two Harbors in an accident that left her pickup upside-down in Lake Superior and a Duluth man was killed when his car left the Highway 61 Expressway near the Knife River and hit a tree.
By: Mike Creger, Lake County News-Chronicle
A woman was killed north of Two Harbors early today in an accident that left her pickup upside-down in Lake Superior.
Several hours later, a Duluth man was killed when his car left the Highway 61 Expressway near the Knife River and hit a tree.
In the first accident, according to Lake County Sheriff Carey Johnson, the driver, a Two Harbors woman, was coming down the hill on County Road 3 to where it meets with Highway 61. The Dodge Dakota apparently crossed Highway 61 and squeezed through a small thicket of pines before hitting a 20-foot drop-off leading to the lake. The truck ended up upside-down about 30 feet off the shore.
Johnson said a dog was also killed in the accident. Two men fishing near the mouth of the Stewart River, near Betty’s Pies, called 911 about 8 a.m. after noticing the truck in the water. Johnson said it could have gone in any time between midnight and 4 a.m., when snow began falling in the area. The snow covered any possible tracks off Highway 61 but emergency responders did find trees sheared off from the ditch to the lake ledge.
Johnson said the accident likely occurred before snow fell because the undercarriage of the truck had snow on it. The truck was in about 4 feet of water.
The anglers said they were out at first light but didn’t see the truck because of heavy snow. About 2 inches fell on the North Shore overnight, with more on and off throughout the morning.
Divers from the Lake County Search and Rescue Squad pulled a body from the truck soon after arriving.
In addition to Lake County personnel, members of the U.S. Coast Guard and the State Patrol were on the scene.
Johnson said past accidents have gradually taken out trees in the woods off the intersection, which eventually allowed a vehicle to go through to the lake. He said past accidents have involved drivers crossing Highway 61 from County Road 3 who lost control due to brake failure, inattentive driving, falling asleep, weather conditions or intoxication.
The intersection was moved to the north at one time and widened due to safety concerns.
No cause for today's accident was apparent at the scene and State Patrol officers are continuing an investigation. The name of the victim is being withheld pending notification of relatives.
While emergency crews waited for an accident reconstruction expert from the State Patrol before removing the vehicle from the water, another accident call came in about 10 a.m. The driver of a 2000 Dodge Stratus, a 26-year-old Duluth man, had gone into the ditch off northbound Highway 61 just south of the Knife River.
His sedan was crumpled among some trees and emergency responders had to extricate the driver, who was pinned.
A Minnesota Department of Transportation plow driver came upon the accident and called it in.
The driver, who was alone in the car, was wearing a seatbelt. He was transported to Essentia Health St. Mary’s Medical Center in Duluth and died later, said Officer Mark Baker, State Patrol spokesman in Duluth.
Baker said it was unclear why the car left the road. The victim’s name is being withheld pending notification of family.