MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Driving south on Highway 100 at 6:30 a.m. on Thursday, I heard WCCO-AM’s Steve Murphy reporting on a horrific accident.
A car was submerged, people trapped inside. I didn’t hear the location. I remember thinking it was likely somewhere by Lake Minnetonka. Suddenly at St. Louis Park traffic slowed, and I saw an ambulance racing with lights and sirens on in the northbound lane. The dark morning was lit with a flood of emergency vehicles with their lights on.
At the intersection of Highway 100 and 7, I could see a massive emergency scene and I could see officers standing in water. I listened closely this time to the radio reports of a submerged car. I remember thinking, “that can’t be right.” I pass through that intersection almost daily and I always thought the pool of water was at most just a couple of feet deep. The water, as it turns out, is a pond and is more than nine feet deep.
Two children in the car have died, one other is in very critical condition and two somehow are showing signs of being responsive. There are still many questions about this tragedy. Why was this young mother out so early with five young children? Were the children properly restrained? (Although car seats, which have saved countless lives, often delay an underwater rescue because they are so difficult to undo.) The mother did not have a license, only a permit. She should have had another adult in the car. Was she speeding? Was she distracted? Five children under 7 years old in a car at any hour would be a distraction. All of those issues and their role in the accident will likely be addressed in the State Patrol’s final report.
Here is one issue I would like to see addressed: The intersection was redesigned in 2006 and the entire area was elevated to allow for more traffic. There is no guard rail, no sign indicating that the pond is not a shallow one. The pond is actually difficult to see from the height of the interchange. A pond that deep with a major roadway above it deserves some type of marker, some type of protection. Would that have prevented this tragedy? Probably not. But it would allow the thousands who drive by there each day to know that what looks like a shallow pool below them is really a pond, that as we have all learned, is deep enough for a car to become submerged in.