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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A fatal accident in the Lowry Tunnel on Interstate 94, involving a semi, brought traffic to a standstill during the morning commute Wednesday morning.

The Minnesota State Patrol said a semi carrying scrap auto parts was heading west on I-94 when he hit a light pole at the entrance of the tunnel. That forced the semi to overturn and sent the trailer into the eastbound lanes, trapping the driver of the semi under the truck.

The State Patrol said the driver, 62-year-old Glen Johnson, ofColfax,Wis., was killed on impact. Authorities said he was wearing a seat belt and they don’t believe drugs or alcohol played a factor in the accident. The trailer Johnson was hauling belonged to Toy Transport, and the truck he was driving belonged to American Express Transportation.

A friend of Johnson’s recalled his Christian values and work ethic.

“You know, he always came in with a smile on his face. Just a real nice guy, easy to get along with. Just a good old boy. Real dedicated,” said Tom Toy.

The cab of the truck separated, sending it into the westbound lanes while the trailer and its contents scattered into the eastbound lanes.

“As tragic as it is, with the volume of traffic at that time of the morning, we’re very lucky that someone didn’t hit that trailer square,” said Lt. Eric Roeske with the Minnesota State Patrol.

No one else was injured in the accident, but three other vehicles were hit with debris during the crash.  One of those drivers was next to the semi during the crash and recalled engines flying through the air coming straight at her.  She prayed, and she survived.

The semi blocked two eastbound lanes of I-94, forcing the road to close and traffic to be detoured onto city streets. Eastbound I-94 was reopened around noon. Westbound I-94 was also closed for several hours but was reopened around 9:30 a.m.

“It’s horrible. It’s completely backed up in both directions. It’s just a parking lot in 94,” said one driver stuck in the congestion.

“It hasn’t been this bad in a long time,” said another driver.

During the closure, the State Patrol advised motorists to find alternate routes. The eastbound tunnel was closed for several hours while crews cleaned up and reconstructed the accident.

Considering the time, place and circumstances of the crash, authorities are surprised the situation wasn’t worse.

“When you look at the way the debris scattered, we have a truck laying sideways blocking three lanes of probably the busiest freeway at the busiest time of the day, it’s truly amazing that someone else wasn’t hurt or killed and that very easily could have happened,” Roeske said.

Comments (62)
  1. Alden says:

    Why did he hit a light pole in a 35 MPH corner? Also there are no light poles inside the tunnel, just near it.

    So much for large vehicles being safer, too.

    1. wat? says:

      idk how you got electric cars out of that comment. trollin’!

  2. Dave says:

    When did construction workers start drawing up building plan u ignorant fool

    1. Max Power says:

      What in the world are you even talking about Dave ????
      Are you an out of work architect by chance ???
      You smart, wise, good looking guy, with the great smile & a wonderful dancer.(and those are his bad points folks)

  3. jan says:

    I never drive in that tunnel because when you enter it, you’re temporarily blinded.

    1. Iconoclast says:

      Sounds like you just had a bad experience once do to the position of the sun and or your eyes not adjusting fast enough. Thousands of drivers a day pass through with out trouble.

    2. B from Mpls says:

      @jan, “temporarily blinded?” I’ve never heard anyone mention this as an issue before. Are your eyes going bad or something?

      I mean, they even put extra lights at the entrances/exits of tunnels to help with pupil adjustment so this doesn’t happen.

      Please explain what you mean…

    3. Need for Speed says:

      Try going 75mph thru the tunnel now that’s a thrill.

  4. JamieinMN says:

    Let’s think of the possibility that the driver may have had a medical issue! Thoughts are with the family :-/
    @Jan, I think you may need your vision checked or just get off the road…..

  5. em0886 says:

    What a tragedy…I feel for the family that lost this man!

  6. Sue says:

    We can all speculate about what may have caused this crash, and it may very have been a medical issue, in which case, I agree with JamieinMN that our thoughts should be with the family. You have to consider that the truck was going too fast around that curve that leads up to the tunnel and with the heavy load it was carrying things may have shifted enough to cause the semi to roll over and spill its contents. I know I rarely am going 35 mph when I hit that curve, but now we can see a good reason for the lower speed posting in that specific spot!

  7. Amanda says:

    Let’s all be respectful of the driver of the semi. We may never know what caused the accident but his life was lost due to it. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

  8. Sylvia Galbrecht says:

    I offer my sympathy to the family regardless of what caused the accident. May this be a wakeup call to truckers, we hear you are in a catch 22 with schedules and rules but please drive within the speed limit. I do my best to pass you as quickly as possible. I’ll give you your space, you give me mine.

    1. boo says:

      article says nothing about him speeding

    2. Far be it from me says:

      Why did you even mention that truck drivers should “please drive within the speed limit” if there was never mention of any speeding in this story, EVER?

      What was your point, Sylvia? Or did you not have one, but commented anyway…

      1. JMJ says:

        It also could have been another driver who cut him off. Because they were being impatient, on their phone any number of reasons. I saw 4 cars cut off 2 semis this morning, because they wanted to get that 1 car length ahead of them. I work for an insurance company and my area is dealing with Semis. It takes a semi 2 to 6 times longer to slow down because of the weight and size. Maybe the wakeup call should be to the rest of the DRIVER who like to cut Semi off all the time.

        1. St Paul Driver says:

          Semis can also be to blame, they sit on my bumper all the time especially if I go the speed limit. We are all to blame: one may speed, another may follow to close, and yet another is probably distracted. This should be a wake up call to EVERYONE, we are each responsible for a few thousand pounds of metal when we are on the road, and yet rarely does anyone drive like it!

          1. Redneck Purist says:

            OK miss preachy pants. We all promise to be more careful. BTW are you the dumb bunny that holds everyone back by driving slow in the fast lane? Like the signs say, “slower traffic keep right”. If you’re in the left lane and someone’s riding your bumper, don’t be a dunce, move to the right so traffic can flow at whatever speed it wants. If people are passing you on the right, it means you’re in the wrong lane.

    3. Deb W. says:

      how fast do you drive Sylvia? You have no idea what these truck drivers go through, I do, people like you cut them off, get in front of them & put the brakes on, etc, my husband & daughter drive big rigs & believe me they have a ton of stories to tell, plus I’ve been with my husband & I’ve seen what goes on, SO YOU WAKE UP!!!!! & if you don’t know what your talking about just shut up.

  9. Red33 says:

    You also have to consider the fact that people drive like idots around those big trucks. How many times do you see people cut them off …lots…. I drive in that tunnel twice a day every day and see people change lanes in there when you are not supposed to. I have even seen someone change lanes in there in front of a semi. People need to learn the rules of the road. I feel bad for this guys family.

    1. Blah Blah says:

      You are allowed to change lanes in the tunnel. It’s probably not the best idea, but it’s not illegal.

      1. Red33 says:

        ok you are right….Im a transplant and in most states it is in fact illegal. So keep on driving like crazy people in the tunnel and cutting off other unsuspecting drivers. good talk Russ

        “A solid white line indicates that lane changes are discouraged in
        areas where this type of marking is present. ” – MN DMV

        1. Raymond mahoney says:

          Discouraged but not Ilegal.

      2. Terrik says:

        Actually it IS against the law to change lanes in the Lowery Tunnel. A SOLID line means DO NOT PASS just like the yellow lines on a highway or county road. And I know what Jan is talking about with the light. There are plenty of lights when you ENTER the tunnel, but not when you are EXITING and if the sun is bright it can hinder your vision.

        1. Red33 says:

          Not according to the DMV website. I thought for sure you couldn’t pass but I couldn’t find anything in my research that states that. I got that quote directly off the MN DMV site. so it would be interesting to know where you get your info

          1. Raymond mahoney says:

            The signage before the tunnel says, no lane change on a double white line. Which I see people do all the time.

            1. tcn says:

              That sign is way before the tunnel for north 35 to west 94 ramp.

        2. Blah Blah says:

          Google: Minnesota_Drivers_Manual.pdf
          Look at Page 64 of the manual (which is page 72 of the PDF).

          Like I said, while changing lanes in the tunnel probably isn’t a good idea, it is certianly NOT illegal.

      3. tom says:

        it is illegal to cross the solid white line and the lines are solid and white

      4. Sector says:

        WHITE LINES painted on the pavement indicate traffic traveling in your direction.
        Broken White Line: you may change lanes if it is safe to do so.
        Solid White Line: requires you to stay within the lane and also marks the shoulder of the roadway.

        HERES THE LAW its illegal to cross the white line.

      5. readthelaw says:

        you are not allowed by law to cross solid white lines which are present thruout that tunnel in both directions.

        Where is it stated it’s allowed in this case?

        1. readthelaw says:

          Single solid white lines, you are discouraged from changing lanes, but can do so.

          Double solid white lines (which go thru the tunnel in both directions) means it is illegal to change lanes.

          1. Sector says:

            ” read the law” I just poted it, might not be what you think but it is the law. For Mn any ways maybe your from Mars!

        2. Red33 says:

          see above comments….I thought that too but its not the case

      6. Kristin says:

        Solid, white lines, like the solid, white lines in the tunnel, mean that you are on one side of the road, but are forbidden to change lanes. There are no dotted, white lines, which mean that you are on one side of the road and allowed to change lanes, are not present in the tunnel. Therefore, NO, you are not allowed to change lanes in the tunnel and if you do and cause an accident, you will be held liable.

  10. B from Mpls says:

    This would have made more sense if the guy was coming from the west where the speed limit goes from 60 to 55 to 35 in a matter of a few miles after hundreds of miles of 70 mph zones.

    However, coming from the east I-94 is 55 mph starting in St. Paul and has several winding curves throughout the 10 or so miles between the speed zone start and the entrance to the tunnel. I don’t get how you could feel safe, even in a car, going even one mph over the posted limit on that road.

    It will be interesting to see what the determined cause is.

  11. Shelly Michels says:

    Could he have taken the curve too fast and hit the pole?

    1. Max Power says:

      Um…….Yeah it’s certainly plausible……….along with the 50 thousand other possibles.
      Why do you ask ??????????

  12. llp says:

    you all should be on JWalk

  13. lol says:

    Did you mean Elites?

  14. MrWright says:

    No way a light pole did that much damage to the cab. My guess is that he was starting to roll over and clipped the edge of the center barrier going into the tunnel.

  15. Factpointer says:

    He may have just drifted over a little and clipped it, which would do enough to roll that heavy truck on a curve, this is most likely driver error and he paid the ultimate price his life, if any1 lost a few minutes driving somewhere I think you can get over it, after all accidents happen everyday, Half the comment makers here are proof of that, no way these fools were planned births but more like errant sperm.

  16. Patrick Shull says:

    I feel sorry for this guys family on their loss.

    Wow, for once they actually wrote in their that the person who was killed was wearing their seat belt. Give it a few hours and they will turn around and say that there is a correction to the story and put in the driver was not wearing his seat belt, just to get everyone to think that seat belts don’t kill and their pathetic law of forcing people to do something that they don’t want to do intact. The only reason they have this law is so that the police can pull anyone and everyone over to check for anything. I have no problem with cops doing their jobs and trying to get rid of the crime, but this seat belt law is not right.

    1. St Paul Driver says:

      I don’t believe that the story stated that the driver was ejected, which is normally what happens when you crash & have no seat belt on. My guess is that the cab flipped and he was actually pinned in the cab. BTW – In those crashes where the driver “chooses” not to wear their seat belt, because it is “their life”, they are also threatening others lives when they are ejected, causing a possible secondary crash. Please think BEFORE you get behind the wheel, it is a cost to all of us!

  17. just me says:

    Just think about how much longer it will take to clean up that mess when there’s 10 fewer firefighters responding. THAT is your taxpayer money at work. If you still don’t see how valuable they are to us lowly citizens, then I suggest you volunteer at a fire station for a day and see how hard they work!

    1. @just you says:

      So you’re saying all 19 stations are responding to clean this mess up? 10 firefighters out of 400 plus that work in 19 stations will be laid off, there will be no impact.

  18. Kent says:

    If you are going too fast and have a top heavy loaded truck when you come to the final curve before the west entrance to the tunnel. ( the speed limit can be too fast with a top heavy load ), you could loose the control of the truck enough to cause this.
    That part of I-94 just before the tunnel is really too sharp for an interstate Hwy. Those who travel it a lot know what I’m talking about.

  19. Deb W. says:

    It wouldn’t surprise me a car caused him to lose control of his truck, I see how people drive around semis, they cut in front of them not giving a thought about it at all, my husband & daughter are truck drivers & I’ve also been with my husband, these people are crazy now a days on the roads, they drive like idiots. My thoughts & prayers are with his family. I can’t believe some of the comments on here, it’s nice to see so much compassion, if it was a relative of yours you might think twice about what you say.

  20. Tara says:

    I was about 15 cars or so behind the accident this morning, and I have NEVER seen photos of a semi cab so mangled. Talk about a helpless feeling. I could see his neon yellow safety vest on him, and hard hat on the road and with the pile of rubble on top of him, I knew there was no chance he could be alive. What an awful thing to see. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. What a horrible accident it was.

  21. Jack Mehoff says:

    Boys and girls, this very type of accident has happened at that exact same spot before – remember the beer truck that split it side on the exact same light pole back 10 years ago? Beer was everywhere in the East bound lane, and the trailer was toast. It’s a gimme’ that this guy was going too fast as no truck would have done that at 35 mph – the cab of the truck was sheared off by the 2 foot wide divider wall, and the bottom part of the truck continued further into the tunnel of the West bound lane, while the trailer smashed right into the dividing wall itself. I’m certain the driver never felt a thing. And BTW, to all of you know-it-alls, you are allowed to pass within the tunnel as it’s a solid SINGLE white line dividing the lanes, so go back and read your DVS manual and stop driving like a bunch of ying-yang no-mind idiots.

    1. john says:

      who knows? anything can go wrong. with auto parts nobody bothers to make sure the truck is loaded evenly. I had an incident today with a perfectly safe truck almost ran into a car ( I drove onto shoulder) a valve failed (unpredictably) in the trailer which actually caused brake application to eliminate the trailer brakes. Stuff happens. Oh by the way the motoring public should be aware of the fact that if the proffessional drivers weren’t so cautious there would be a lot of bad accidents everyday – which we go to great lengths to avoid – please don’t cut in front of trucks. Thanks

  22. Max Power says:

    LMAO, Did U Mean Electric ? If So, The Elite Can Have Them, I’ll Stick With My 454 Twin Turbo Supercharged Engine.

  23. Suzzi says:

    My prayers are with the family & friends. I know the pain of having someone die in another state & not being there. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  24. Gardoglee says:

    My condolences to the driver’s family and friends.

    A comment about the lights entering and leaving the tunnel argument. Many, many people over time slowly develop low level cataracts. Not enough to make them blind, but more than enough to cause trouble adjusting to sudden changes in lighting. This is not only octegenarians, but many people as early as their forties. Entering the tunnel from either end you are confronted with a downhill grade, a change in lighting, typically a change in speed as some drivers slow down entering the tunnel, and a curve. And it is true that drivers tend to be very aggressive in that stretch of road, particularly because of the exit ramps for 394 and 35W which come shortly after exiting the tunnel in one direction or the other. Even with the lights to help adjust it can be very difficult to simultaneously see and track everything else going on. All of this together is a recipe for accidents.

    It is also worth noting that the sort of automobile parts this truck seems to have been carrying are not only heavy, but also unstable. While negotiating a curve it is not uncommon for some shifting of the cargo to occur. When there is enough room the driver can recover. The tunnel does not give you a lot of room. Add in trying to avoid a stationary object like a light pole, which are placed very close to the roadway in the narrow confines of the tunnel and the stretces leading into it, and there is very little room for error.

    All of which is to say let’s not bash the deceased driver, but rather be thankful that whatever he did during those last few seconds of his life he managed to not drop his cargo on anyone else, nor kill anyone else. That is probably something he was thinking about as he died.

  25. Max Power says:

    OK lets get this White Line thing settled…..this is “copied & pasted” right out of the MN Drivers Manual page #37 :

    Pavement Markings

    Pavement markings direct and regulate traffic.

    White Lines

    White lines separate lanes of traffic traveling in the same direction.
    A line composed of white dashes indicates that drivers can change lanes in areas where this type of marking is present.
    A line of shorter and thicker white dashes indicates that the lane
    will end.
    A solid white line indicates that lane changes are discouraged in areas where this type of marking is present. Solid white lines also
    mark crosswalks, stop lines at intersections, parking stalls, and the edges of a roadway.
    Double solid white lines indicate that lane changes are prohibited
    in areas where this type of marking is present.
    A solid white line with a bicycle insignia along the side of the road indicates an area is designated for bicycle traffic only. Bicycles must travel in the same direction as adjacent traffic.

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    1. BAD MOTHER F***ER says:

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