NEW ULM - The Brown County Attorney's Office (BCA) announced the filing of two criminal complaints Friday, relating to Feb. 15 and March 7, 2014, fatal vehicle accidents in New Ulm and west of Sleepy Eye, respectively.
In each case, the Minnesota State Patrol conducted investigations and provided the BCA with reports that detail findings and recommendations. Based on report reviews and applicable statutes, the BCA filed complaints with Brown County District Court.
Brown County Attorney Robert Hinnenthal said the charges in both cases basically follow Minnesota State Patrol recommendations. "This gives you a dichotomy," Hinnenthal said. "The cases can be very different but they both involve loss of life."
As of Friday, no hearings for either case were set in Brown County District Court.
New Ulm accident
Liam P. Kelly, 22, New Ulm, faces two felony criminal vehicular homicide gross negligence charges, two criminal vehicular operation gross negligence charges, gross misdemeanor uninsured vehicle-owner violation and misdemeanor driving after revocation charges, according to the complaint.
Kelly is alleged to have driven and crashed a 2005 Mini Cooper on West U.S. Highway 14 after consuming alcohol with friends, resulting in the death of one passenger and serious injuries to himself and another passenger, according to a BCA press release.
The Minnesota State Patrol, New Ulm Police and the Brown County Sheriff's Office were dispatched to a one-vehicle rollover at 3:55 a.m., Saturday, Feb. 15, near Hunter's Den on Highway 14. At the scene, officers found a Mini Cooper on its top with a male party inside who was unresponsive, according to the complaint.
Meanwhile, officers attended to two others in the vehicle, Ryan and Liam Kelly. Police talked to Kelly who admitted to driving too fast for conditions, losing control of the vehicle and rolling it several times. Officers detected a strong alcoholic beverage odor coming from Liam Kelly. He admitted to consuming as many as four beers prior to driving and submitted to a preliminary breath test that read .117. Due to his injuries, no further field sobriety tests were requested.
Allina Ambulance personnel pronounced Randyn Groebner deceased and rendered medical aid to the Kellys before they were transported to New Ulm Medical Center Emergency Room (NUMC ER). The Kellys were later flown by helicopter to Hennepin County Medical Center (HCMC).
After a search warrant was obtained, a state trooper confirmed Liam Kelly's identity at HCMS and a registered nurse drew his blood at 8:15 a.m. A Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Toxicology Report dated March 12, 2014 indicated an ethyl alcohol concentration of .039 grams per 100 milliliters of blood.
Investigating the crash site, a state trooper observed the pavement was dry and there were marks in the snow and debris indicating the car had rolled/cart-wheeled along a snow bank between Highway 14 and Westridge Road. The trooper noticed six indents in the snow, possible landing spots as the car rolled along the snow bank.
A State Patrol crash reconstruction and forensic mapping specialist concluded that the vehicle went out of control, hitting a snow bank, causing it to roll before hitting a sign and light pole, coming to rest on its top. Groebner, a front-seat passenger, died as a result of his injuries. The Kellys suffered life-threatening injuries, and the vehicle was traveling about 125 mph in a 45 mph zone when it went out of control. No equipment failure, road design or visibility issues contributed to the crash.
On Feb. 17, 2014, a state trooper received information about Ryan Kelly's injuries that included a badly-damaged arm that required surgery to place a vein from his leg into his arm and wrist for better blood flow. Kelly was to have surgery to place plates and screws in his arm.
Liam Kelly admitted he had no car insurance at the time of the crash. A license record review showed his driver's license was revoked at the time of the crash.
Sleepy Eye accident
Kansas T. Adams, 19, Sleepy Eye, faces misdemeanor charges for failure to use due care and allowing more than 1.4 grams of marijuana to be kept in a motor vehicle in the second crash, involving two vehicles.
The accident that resulted in the deaths of four passengers in Adams' car and serious injuries to Adams and two of three occupants in the other vehicle, occurred at about 8:16 p.m. Friday, March 7, on Highway 14, just west of Sleepy Eye near 280th Avenue.
According to the complaint, Sleepy Eye Police were called by Brown County Dispatch about a motor vehicle crash west of Sleepy Eye on Highway 14 at that time. Police noticed road conditions were extremely icy, and blowing snow was covering the road as they approached the accident scene. A Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) snow plow was stopped west of the crash site on Highway 14.
Kansas Adams was standing next to his black Pontiac on his own, but police saw he was visibly injured, so an officer returned to his vehicle for first-aid gear. Douglas P. Wiborg, driver of the other vehicle in the crash, told police his two children were injured. The officer provided trauma packs for the children, told Wiborg an ambulance was on its way and called dispatch for another ambulance.
When the officer returned to Adams' vehicle, he administered oxygen and retrieved a wool blanket to cover Adams before an ambulance arrived and emergency medical technicians (EMTs) began providing care. The officer yelled into Adams' vehicle and got no response, so he performed a sternum rub on one person. Two EMTs were unable to find a pulse on any of the four bodies in Adams' car, and Sleepy Eye Fire and Rescue were contacted to extract the bodies from the car.
A state trooper talked with a man who said he was traveling west on Highway 14 behind Adams' vehicle that pulled away from him west of town before it went out of control and spun across the traffic lanes. The trooper was unable to identify any tire marks or point of impact because sand was spread on the road so first responders could work safely.
A state trooper examined Adams' vehicle after the victims were removed because their identities were unknown. A wallet was found, plus a glass container and a metal grinder with what appeared to be marijuana buds, later weighed at three grams, that tested positive for a controlled substance.
Based on the items, troopers requested a blood draw to determine if Kansas Adams had been under the influence of any controlled substances. A blood sample was obtained, and the BCA later found that Kansas Adams had no controlled substance or alcohol in his blood.
A trooper talked with Wiborg at NUMC who said road conditions deteriorated as he drove east from Balaton, causing him to drive 30 mph on the s-curve west of Sleepy Eye where the crash occurred. Wiborg said he tried to slow or stop, but slid and the crash happened in the eastbound lane of Highway 14.
At about 9:10 p.m., state troopers went to the crash site and noticed MnDOT had salted and plowed the road around the two vehicles but their final rest had not been disturbed. Vehicle debris were found in the snow that had been plowed off the road. Troopers were unable to find any roadway evidence of point of impact.
Measurements of the vehicle's final rest were recorded, the vehicles were removed and the road was cleared before a final sketch for forensic mapping and crash reconstruction was made.
A state patrol investigation involved viewing the vehicles, reviewing and mapping the scene and gathering data from the sensing and diagnostic module (DSM) of the Pontiac that recorded a maximum longitudinal deceleration of 8.73 mph. No evidence of equipment failure was found.
Based on evidence, the report determined that the Pontiac was traveling sideways at the time of the crash while Wiborg's Dodge pickup was traveling more or less in a straight line when the crash occurred.
On May 22, 2014, a state trooper conducted a phone interview with Kansas Adams. He recalled very little about the crash other than being at home, meeting friends, seeing headlights while driving, hearing an EMT and waking up in the hospital. Adams said there was marijuana in the car but it didn't belong to him.
Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.