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A brother's view: Accident story only ruined more lives

I found the April 30 article in the News Tribune, “Superior man charged with criminal vehicular homicide,” to be short-sighted, not well-enough researched and truly unprofessional.

As the brother of Joe Lofald, the passenger who died in the accident the story was about, not a day goes by I don’t think about what happened. The writer’s decision to use such vulgar language as “blood running down from his face to his torso” and “Lofald’s skull was shattered and his brain was extensively damaged during the crash” was an outrage to my whole family. When I addressed family members about this accident, I explained Joe hit his head when the car rolled over and that he no longer was with us. Now, because of this article, all of Joe’s parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends have a horrifying image of him with a shattered skull and with “blood running … from his face to his torso.” In my opinion, the writer specifically chose such language to dramatize the story. The writer seemed to me to be of the opinion the driver of the vehicle, James Duane Voltzke, was guilty.

The story said the tardiness in bringing charges was due to a trooper’s retirement and a high workload for the investigative unit. “There were other priority cases,” a Minnesota State Patrol spokesman said in the story. I believe this was a poor excuse, at best, for possibly misplacing or seeming to forget about this case. What has more priority than a young person losing his life? I can’t be sure, but I’m willing to bet that just about every seat belt violator or speeder since April 2011 had his or her day in court and investigations closed.

The article included the possibility that Voltzke was over the legal blood-alcohol limit at the time of the one-car accident. But it failed to mention that my brother and Voltzke had just finished a 10-day shutdown at Minntac. Anybody who knows about shutdowns in a taconite plant knows that it is a very demanding job, both physically and mentally. Workdays can be 12 hours long until the job is done. So now picture them working an average person’s work week three times over in just 10 days. Add to that just about three hours of drive time every day. Perhaps Voltzke was exhausted and fell asleep. That seems like a better explanation for the accident than that he and my brother finished the job and had supper with a couple of drinks after work.

Another clarification that should have been made in the article: It said Voltzke was found at a nearby gas station trying to get to a phone to call for help for Joe. It didn’t mention that he was holding his head with his hands because his neck was shattered in the accident while he kicked at a door trying to get help to save my brother. I believe that would have been a more accurate account ofVoltzke’s character than as a person on the verge of having too many drinks.

All this information easily could have been obtained by contacting any of Joe’s immediate family or friends. I’ve always believed a writer was supposed to research stories from different sides before publishing, but perhaps whoever was involved in the publishing of this article was not taught this and is willing to write whatever seems the most dramatic.

What happened to Joe was a tragedy to many people. Publishing something like this will not bring Joe back but simply ruin more lives. Our family supports Voltzke through these trying times, and we hope the News Tribune will clear his name with as much enthusiasm as it was discredited.

John Lofald lives in Hermantown.

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