ST. PAUL — Nine people, including three on Monday near Little Falls, died in traffic crashes in Minnesota during the week of Feb. 17-23, according to preliminary Minnesota Department of Public Safety traffic crash reports.
Public safety officials say the traffic death rate accelerated in February following a relatively safe January when 12 people were killed compared to 27 deaths during the first month in 2010. To date this year there has been 32 deaths compared to 35 at this time in 2010.
In a news release, State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said motorists should buckle up, drive at safe speeds, pay attention and never drive impaired.
The nine deaths include:
• At 4:18 p.m., Feb. 17, Thomas Steven Briggs, 19, Crookston, and Lawrence Louis Trudeau, 77, Red Lake Falls, collided head-on on County Road 11 in Polk County. Both died at the scene.
• At 9:29 a.m., Feb. 17, Ashley Meuwissen, 23, Cologne, was broadsided by a vehicle while attempting to cross Highway 212 in Carver County.
• At 3:26 p.m. Monday, John Kalas, 62, Bloomington, was eastbound on Interstate 94 in Stearns County when he spun out, hit a bridge wall and was struck by a another vehicle. He died a day later.
• At 6:52 p.m. Monday, a triple fatality crash on Highway 27 near Little Falls claimed the lives of Melissa Lorenz, 31; Angela Lorenz, 10; and Desiree Lorenz, 7, all of Flensburg. Their vehicle was westbound on Highway 27, crossed into oncoming traffic and hit an eastbound vehicle head-on. A third vehicle traveling westbound then crashed into the two vehicles.
• At 8:03 a.m. Tuesday, Vanessa Vaj, 37, Walnut Grove, was westbound on Highway 30 in Cottonwood County and collided with a semi-trailer traveling eastbound.
• At 8:05 p.m. Wednesday, William B. Hofman, 78, Superior, Wis., lost control of his vehicle on Highway 133 in St. Louis County and was broadsided by a vehicle going in the opposite direction.
The State Patrol asked motorists to pay attention after eight troopers were hit on the road since Sunday. The latest crash happened Tuesday night, in which the squad car of a state trooper was struck while the trooper was arresting a drunk driver on Interstate 694 and Silver Lake Road in New Brighton. Trooper Tim Peterson sustained facial injuries.