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Authorities say fiery, fatal Minn. crash one of the worst they've ever seen

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Minnesota State Trooper and commercial vehicle inspector Sgt. Jim Baillif examines the logging truck involved in the fatal crash south of Pequot Lakes Thursday. Steve Kohls / Forum News Service2 / 3
Minnesota State Patrol officials examine a vehicle involved in a fatal collision Thursday morning on Highway 371 south of Pequot Lakes. Steve Kohls / Forum News Service3 / 3

PEQUOT LAKES, Minn.—One of the most horrendous crash scenes area law enforcement officers said they have ever seen in their career occurred Thursday when a semitrailer and Ford truck crashed head-on, ignited into flames, and killed a driver.

A 60-year-old Pequot Lakes man was killed in the crash, which was reported at 6:31 a.m. on Highway 371, south of Pequot Lakes in Sibley Township in Crow Wing County.

"This was one of the worse accidents I have seen for awhile," Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang said of the fatality. "Especially on this road. The vehicles hit just right where it caused a fire."

Capt. Scott Goddard of the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, said the sheriff's office sent a number of deputies and investigators to assist the state patrol on scene and to assist with traffic control.

"I have been to a great number of crashes throughout the years and this was definitely a tragic event," Goddard said. "Our thoughts and prayers go out to those involved, who witnessed the event and all responders."

The Minnesota State Patrol had a district investigator, a crash reconstruction specialist, a commercial vehicle inspector and two road troopers on scene to investigate the crash.

The state patrol reported the Pequot Lakes man was driving a 1998 Ford truck north on Highway 371, when the Ford hit a concrete barrier on the right and went across the highway in the southbound lane, hitting a 1998 Peterbilt semitrailer head-on. The semitrailer was a logging truck that wasn't loaded.

Upon impact of the two vehicles, a fire ignited causing fire damage to both the Ford and the Peterbilt. The driver of the Peterbilt, Daniel T. Jackson, 60, Hackensack was not injured.

The state patrol reported the Pequot Lakes man was not wearing a seat belt. The crash report noted more information would be available about the identity of the Pequot Lakes man Friday evening.

The Pequot Lakes police and fire departments, the Nisswa Fire Department, the Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office and North Memorial Ambulance assisted the state patrol at the scene.

The crash occurred on a portion of the Highway 371 four-lane expansion project. The concrete barriers—called jersey barriers—along Highway 371, are used to separate the lanes of traffic and are temporary sections associated with the construction project of the highway.

A portion of Highway 371 near the crash site closed as emergency personnel worked the scene to investigate the crash. Motorists were rerouted off of the highway to East Twin Lake to Wilderness road, Crow Wing County Road 107 and Olson Road.

The stretch of highway reopened to traffic about 1:30 p.m., the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Baxter reported as crews waited for specialists to arrive from St. Paul. Baywest Environmental contractors were expected to arrived about 3 p.m. Thursday to remove and dispose the contaminated sand used to absorb the spilled diesel fuel. Baywest equipment included a skid steer, broom attachment and a roll-off dumpster to store and take away the materials. The state department of transportation advised drivers to find alternative routes to avoid congestion through 6 p.m. Thursday as traffic moved slowly through the cleanup area while crews worked on the shoulder.

Jennifer Kraus

A big part of my day is chasing down tips on a variety of breaking news stories, relating to vehicle crashes, fires, police incidents and court cases. I’m always thankful when people call in tips to alert me on an incident so I can follow up and see if the tip is actually something that occurred or is a rumor. It’s a big scope to keep track of as we not only cover Brainerd and Crow Wing County incidents, but we also cover the surrounding counties and cities. I also gather information on the entertainment scene, so if you are hosting a band or choir concert, an art exhibit, a play or other theater production -- I want to hear about it. If you know of a story on any of these beats, give me a shout! To help support local journalism, click here to sign up to receive a Dispatch digital subscription to our e-edition or to receive the printed paper at your door, or to get both.

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