A Two Harbors man allegedly admitted to police that he was reaching for his cellphone when he rear-ended another vehicle, throwing the car into oncoming traffic and leading to the hospitalization of five people.
Rodney Drake Scandin Jr., 35, turned himself in Saturday, shortly after the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office asked for the public's assistance in locating the driver involved in the hit-and-run crash at Midway and Stark roads in Midway Township.
According to a criminal complaint, Scandin admitted he did not stop at the scene "as he was scared and was supposed to assist a family member that evening. Scandin said he had just left a golf course, where he consumed two beers, according to the complaint.
Authorities said a Subaru occupied by four family members was stopped and waiting to turn onto Stark Road when it was rear-ended by Scandin's Ford F-150 around 4:45 p.m. The Subaru was thrown sideways into the southbound lane of Midway Road, where it was T-boned by an oncoming Chevrolet pickup truck with an attached trailer.
All four family members in the Subaru and one passenger in the Chevrolet were taken to local hospitals, according to the complaint. One passenger in the Subaru, identified by the family as Thomas Perich, was later flown to a Twin Cities hospital, where he remained with extensive injuries as of Tuesday.
Scandin was arraigned in State District Court in Duluth on five felony counts of criminal vehicular operation resulting in great bodily harm and a misdemeanor charge of failure to notify police of a collision resulting in bodily injury.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Jill Eichenwald granted Scandin release with conditions, alternatively setting bail at $30,000.
According to the complaint:
Deputies arriving at the crash scene found the Chevrolet pressed against the passenger side of the Subaru in the ditch along Midway Road.
Witnesses reported that the Subaru was stopped in the northbound lane with its turn signal activated when it was struck from behind by a maroon truck, which left the scene. The driver of the Chevrolet also indicated he believed the Subaru was struck from behind and that he did not have enough time to react before broadsiding the vehicle.
The Subaru's driver, Dan Perich, suffered a concussion, multiple broken ribs and bruised lungs. The front-seat passenger, Thomas Perich, had a shattered pelvis and severe internal injuries, the extent of which remained unknown, though the family indicated he will "require months of complete immobilization at a rehab facility, followed by extensive physical therapy."
The left-rear passenger, Angela Perich, was taken to a hospital with a broken collarbone, broken toes and a bruised lung. The right-rear passenger, Michael Perich, was being treated for injuries including broken teeth, a broken nose and multiple lacerations.
One passenger in the Chevrolet was treated for a hairline nose fracture. The two other occupants complained of being sore, but declined treatment.
Investigators examined debris at the scene, which indicated the hit-and-run vehicle was an F-150 with model years of 2009-15. Surveillance footage from a nearby business also showed a maroon F-150 driving by with clear damage to its front bumper and grill.
Scandin contacted the sheriff's office on Saturday night, about two hours after authorities issued a news release with a photo of the damaged truck.
In a statement, Scandin reported that he was leaving the Grand View Golf Links in Duluth and driving north on Midway Road when he bent down and reached for his phone. He stated he saw brake lights as he struck the Subaru from behind. Scandin admitted he did not stop at the scene or attempt to contact police.
Scandin has a prior conviction for driving while impaired in Lake County in 2012, according to court records.
A GoFundMe page for the Perich family had raised more than $18,000 by Tuesday afternoon.