MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Authorities have concluded from an investigation that distracted driving is likely the cause of a July 30 crash in western Wisconsin that killed three teenage boys.

Zachary Zajec, 17 of New Richmond, Wis., was driving an SUV with 17-year-old Joshua Goodrich and 16-year-old Jordan Johnson, also of New Richmond, when it rear-ended a semi-truck on Interstate 94 just east of Hudson. The three died, while another 17-year-old passenger suffered minor injuries.

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The Wisconsin State Patrol released its report Wednesday and said distracted driving appears to be a significant factor in the crash. The teenagers were returning to New Richmond, Wis., from Woodbury and witnesses said they were trying to get the attention of another car that had passed them. The teenagers were returning from a shopping trip when a young woman in another car passed them and the boys decided to hold up a sign with their phone number.

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“They just wanted to get that driver’s attention….so that perhaps they could communicate later,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Sergeant Brian Erickson.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Steve Murphy Reports

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Authorities say Johnson had undone his seat belt in an attempt to find paper, and at the same time, Zajec searched the center console. It ultimately led to their SUV rear-ending the stopped semitrailer at highway speed.