Reporting Bill Hudson
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – A two-mile stretch of Viking Boulevard in East Bethel has claimed an unusually high number of lives this year. Now, the popular and well-traveled county road has law enforcement troubled and families grieving.
It’s the holidays that are hardest for Angela Nguyen.
“With the holidays coming up I’m reminded of everyone that lost a loved one on that stretch of highway and how hard it’s going to be for them,” Nguyen said, fighting back tears.
Every day for the past three years, she’s driven by the spot along Viking Boulevard where her 19-year-old daughter, Rachel, was killed.
Yet, if one roadside memorial wasn’t enough, three more now stand just a short distance away.
“I drive by at least three memorials every day on the way to work and on the way home – one being that of my daughter,” said Nguyen.
Since Rachel’s accident in 2009, this section of Anoka County Road 22, also known as Viking Boulevard, has turned more deadly.
From just last April, six other people have been killed on the roadway in five separate accidents. All of the fatalities were within a two mile stretch.
“It’s an uncanny amount of fatalities,” said Anoka County Sheriff’s Commander, Paul Sommer.
Sommer says the Sheriff’s Department is troubled by the unusually high number of crashes and deaths on Viking Boulevard- yet they remain perplexed as to why. When each of the fatal accidents is compared to the others, there are few — if any — similarities.
Contributing factors range from excessive speed, driving under the influence of alcohol, inattentive driving, icy roads and possible medical issues.
Sommer says the engineering of the highway is not a concern and that it was recently widened and upgraded for even greater visibility and safety.
“Part of the problem is that it is the only thoroughfare going east-west, cutting across that part of the county, so it’s heavily used,” said Sommer.
Still, a grieving Angela Nguyen looks at the photos of those who have been killed and she wants something done. She and other friends and family of victims don’t want others to have to feel their pain.
They also don’t want more memorial signs and markers erected at the spots along a highway where loved ones lost their lives!
“All I know is something has to be done now before more lives are lost,” said Nguyen.
Concerned residents of the area have started a petition drive in hopes of convincing Anoka County to look into the high number of fatalities. They also have created a Facebook page, called “Help Viking Blvd,” to coordinate support for greater safety and awareness along the stretch of highway.