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Two injured in head-on crash on Highway 61

Two people were injured late Friday in a head-on crash involving a wrong-way driver on Minnesota Highway 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors. The crash on the four-lane, divided highway happened at about 10:30 p.m. in the northbound lanes between H...

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Emergency crews work at the scene of a head-on crash on state Highway 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors on Friday night. By the time this photo was taken, the injured drivers already were being transported to the hospital. (News Tribune)
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Two people were injured late Friday in a head-on crash involving a wrong-way driver on Minnesota Highway 61 between Duluth and Two Harbors.

The crash on the four-lane, divided highway happened at about 10:30 p.m. in the northbound lanes between Homestead and Alseth roads, the Minnesota State Patrol reported.

According to the Patrol, a 2008 Pontiac Grand Prix was traveling in the left northbound lane, passing a 1998 Toyota 4Runner in the right northbound lane, when the drivers encountered a 1992 Honda Accord traveling south in the northbound lanes. The drivers of the Pontiac and Honda made attempts to avoid a collision, the Patrol reported, but collided head-on, causing the Honda to in turn strike the Toyota.

The driver of the Pontiac, Jade Hawkinson, 18, of Silver Bay, was transported to Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth with what the Patrol said were non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the Honda, Shawn Bennett-Casanova, 30, of Nashwauk, was transported to St. Luke's hospital in Duluth, also with what the Patrol reported were non-life-threatening injuries.

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The driver of the Toyota, Michael Mattingly, 63, of Eagan, Minn., was not injured.

All three drivers were wearing seat belts, the Patrol said, and there was no alcohol detected in any of the drivers' systems. Authorities did not immediately provide any further information on what may have led to Bennett-Casanova's vehicle traveling in the wrong lane. Road conditions were dry at the time.

The Honda and Pontiac were totaled, the Patrol said. The Toyota suffered minor damage. The northbound lanes of HIghway 61 were closed for more than an hour, with traffic diverted to Scenic Highway 61, as emergency crews worked at the scene.

Among the other agencies at the scene were the St. Louis County Sheriff's Office, St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Clifton Volunteer Fire Department and Gold Cross Ambulance.

Friday night's crash happened about 3 miles southwest of where a wrong-way crash claimed two lives last July. In that case, a Florida man was traveling north in the southbound lanes near Knife River when his vehicle struck a southbound car just before 11 p.m. on July 11.

That wrong-way driver, Philip Bergerson, died in the crash and later was found to have had a blood alcohol content more than five times the legal limit, authorities said.

The driver of the other vehicle, Cole Drechsler, 20, of Cloquet, died from his injuries several days later. 

Related Topics: TWO HARBORS
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