MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota State Patrol is learning more about a crash that killed one man and left another hurt in a construction zone.
Troopers say a truck rear-ended a second truck Tuesday afternoon near a marked work zone along Interstate 94 in Rogers.
Vern Hedquist, 59, died in the crash. The Pillager resident was a construction inspector for WSB and Associates.
A spokesperson for the state patrol says this crash was preventable, and it is possible that one or both of the truck drivers could be charged once the investigation is complete.
“It’s sad,” said Minnesota State Patrol Spokesperson Tiffani Nielson. “This gentleman was just out doing his job, focusing on what he had to focus on.”
Five members of a road crew were drilling holes into the right lane of eastbound I-94 near Highway 81 Tuesday afternoon.
“There were signs posted that the right lane was closed. It was a moving construction zone, so they were working in different areas,” Nielson said.
As the driver of a pickup truck with a trailer approached the work zone, he slowed down and was hit by the driver of a commercial box truck.
“The truck and trailer then went into the right side and careened into the right, and the truck and trailer essentially split along the core of the drilling device and that is where the man who was killed was at,” she said.
Investigators say it is not clear which driver was at fault.
“This was well marked. It’s easy to see what is coming up ahead. But if you can’t move over safely, you need to wait until you have room,” she said. “We are not sure what the driver saw. I don’t know if he saw the driver coming up behind him or not. That is will be what we looked at as well.”
The state patrol says 45 people died in work zone traffic crashes in Minnesota between 2013 and 2017, and 4,051 people were injured. Tuesday’s crash brings this year’s number to 13, which is four more deaths than the yearly average.
“People need to be aware, following distances need to be increased, people need to be off their phones, not distracted and paying attention to what’s happening around them,” Nielson said. “This area … there was a large sign posted, that the lane was closed.”
A second worker, 64-year-old Thomas Wood of Maple Grove, was also injured in the crash. He was treated and released from the hospital.
His employer, WSB & Associates, told WCCO-TV he began working for WSB in 2014 as a construction inspector in the Construction Services group. They released this statement Wednesday:
Vern is an experienced construction observer who has worked in all aspects of the industry including construction inspection, design, soils, surveys, road surface maintenance, roadside maintenance, bridge maintenance, and signs.
He was awarded an individual merit award for construction excellence, in recognition of his contribution to the Brainerd By-Pass construction project located in Crow Wing County, deemed to be the best of its class. Vern has also worked on projects which received National Awards for excellence.
He has coordinated a variety of public and private projects and is familiar with ensuring that contract work is performed in accordance with contract provisions, verifying results of material testing, and project documentation. Vern and he coworkers at the site were doing geotechnical work for a MnDOT project. They were taking samples of the pavement and taking samples of the soil beneath the pavement. These samples are tested in the lab and the test results are used to develop the next pavement design.