Reporting Holly Wagner
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The family of a man killed in a hit-and-run crash last week is planning to file a civil lawsuit against the family of the vehicle’s owner.
Thirty-eight-year-old Anousone Phanthavong was killed August 23 while he was filling his car with gas on the off-ramp of the Cedar-Riverside exit of westbound Interstate 94.
The State Patrol said the Mercedes-Benz SUV that ran into Phanthavong belongs to former Minnesota Vikings tight end and local businessman Joe Senser.
The Senser family is expected to release a statement later Friday on the crash, but Phanthavong’s family members say they are outraged. They believe the Senser family is trying to hide the identity of who was behind the wheel during the crash.
The State Patrol said that the Sensers have thus far refused to answer any questions, and that they are looking at other avenues to try and determine who was driving.
Phanthavong’s family said they intend to file a civil lawsuit as early as next week.
Within 24 hours of the crash, an attorney for the Senser family led officers to the gold 2009 Mercedes-Benz ML350. Investigators noted front-end damage on the passenger side, including on the fender, and what looked like blood on the hood.
The vehicle was taken to the Hennepin County Crime Lab and a search turned up a bobby pin, a set of earrings, a bottle as well as a Mike’s bottle cap inside the vehicle.
The Sensers’ attorney confirmed the vehicle is owned by Senser, but did not say who may have been driving.
“The United State Constitution, the Minnesota Constitution provide every person with the right against self-incrimination, and the Sensers’ decision not to communicate who was driving is based on our advice at this point,” Nelson said.
Check Whitney, owner of True Thai Restaurant in Minneapolis, where Phanthavong worked as head chef, said he doesn’t understand why the Senser family is not more forthcoming.
“If it was an accident, it was an accident,” said Whitney. “Let’s get the information out and find out what happened. Don’t make the family go through hell to find out what happened. Whatever it is, it happened, so let’s just get to the truth.”
Whitney said he has interacted with Joe Senser in the past and has encountered him at various charity events. He said he always found him to be a respectable man, and he hopes he continues to do the right thing with regard to this incident.