MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The State Patrol says alcohol is a factor in a wrong-way crash that has left three people in critical condition tonight.
Investigators say it happened around 2 Monday morning when 25-year-old Jennifer Thompson of St. Paul began driving north in the southbound lanes of Interstate 94.
Her car, a Kia Optima, collided head-on near Dowling Avenue with an Infiniti G35 driven by 26-year-old Andrew Witthuhn of Coon Rapids.
Thompson, her passenger and Witthuhn were all rushed to North Memorial Medical Center.
“The wrong-way driver, we believe the driver had been drinking alcohol. We could smell it on her breath,” Lt. Tiffani Nielson of the State Patrol said.
Nielson said Thompson entered 94 the wrong way at Fourth Street in Minneapolis. She drove about a mile and a half and passed several vehicles before the head-on crash.
“She had at least seen other vehicles and should have been aware enough to pull over to the side of the road, but that did not happen,” said Nielson.
Thompson and her passenger, 20-year-old Brianna Parrish of Brooklyn Park, were not wearing seat belts and suffered life-threatening injuries. Witthuhn likely didn’t see the car coming until it was too late.
“The driver traveling the correct way was driving sober, doing everything right and was hit head on by this wrong-way driver,” said Witthuhn.
Witthuhn is a member of the Minnesota National Guard 34th Military Police Company. An update on his Caring Bridge site says he has a number of internal injuries and broken bones in his arms, knee, leg and foot. His family is asking for continued thoughts and prayers.
This is the second head-on crash on I-94 in Minneapolis since September. That’s when the State Patrol says a drunk driver hit a car, killing 18-year-old Diana Rojas Martinez and 19-year-old Chris Bunay.
“Don’t take a risk or chance to put someone else’s life in harm’s way. We’ll keep talking about it, we’ll keep telling people’s stories because we want people to make good decisions,” said Nielson.
The State Patrol is investigating how fast Thompson was driving when the crash occurred.
The BCA is also doing tests to see what drugs or alcohol may have been in her system at the time of the crash.