LeRoy VanVickle will be remembered for his hard, dedicated work with the city of Brainerd.
VanVickle, 59, Pillager, died at 5:59 a.m. Wednesday, the Minnesota State Patrol reported. VanVickle was injured Friday in a three-vehicle crash on Highway 210 near the Crow Wing County landfill in Oak Lawn Township. VanVickle, who was driving a Brainerd Public Utilities (BPU) vehicle, was airlifted by North Memorial Air Care to St. Cloud Hospital, where he was reported in fair condition Monday.
“It was a shock to all of us,” said Brainerd City Administrator Theresa Goble. “We were all very sad to hear about his death ... It was so unexpected. We didn’t expect this, we were preparing get well cards for him.”
Goble said VanVickle started with BPU in September of 1980 and was the line supervisor. Goble said he was good at leading people and he was well liked.
“He was a valuable employee and a great family man,” said Goble. “He will be sorely missed.”
BPU Superintendent Scott Magnuson said he and Todd Wicklund, BPU finance director, were at a meeting Wednesday morning out of the BPU office when VanVickle’s wife called to tell them that he had passed away.
“We were shocked,” said Magnuson, who has known VanVickle since he started working at BPU 7 1/2 years ago. “He was a hard, dedicated employee and dedicated to his family and his co-workers. He loved what he was doing. I was working with him since day one and got to know him well. ... He was upbeat, chipper and you could tell if something was bothering him because he would be quiet.”
Magnuson said he talked with VanVickle on Monday to see how he was doing and to check on some BPU projects. Magnuson said VanVickle didn’t mind talking to him about work and told him, “Call me, I don’t care, I am just going to sit here.”
Magnuson said VanVickle loved to hunt and he just got back from Colorado checking out some land for a fall hunt. He said that he took his grandson with him.
Lucy Nesheim, who is on the Brainerd Public Utilities Commission, said the loss of VanVickle is a big loss for BPU and for the city of Brainerd.
“He will be greatly missed,” she said. “I didn’t know him real well, but I know of his work. I stopped at BPU today (Wednesday) and it was a sad place.”
Brainerd Fire Chief Kevin Stunek has known VanVickle for 15-20 years, but got to know him more closely when he became fire chief.
“He was a very kind and passionate man,” said Stunek. “He was a model city employee. He was dedicated to the city and was a good family man.”
According to the state patrol, VanVickle was traveling westbound Friday on Highway 210, coming up to Crow Wing County Road 147, when he was hit in the driver’s side of his truck. The BPU truck spun around and went into the northbound ditch backwards. The state patrol said the dash was pushed back into VanVickle’s legs. Brainerd firefighters had to extricate VanVickle, who was trapped in the truck.
The other injured driver was Jeffrey P. Maxwell, 63, who was transported by Crosby ambulance to Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center, where he was treated and released.
Maxwell was stopped in the eastbound lane of Highway 210, waiting to make a left turn onto County Road 147 to go to the landfill. Maxwell told the state patrol there was a long line of traffic going westbound and he had to sit for a while. Maxwell said a red car came up behind him and as it got close it started to go to the right around him in the bypass lane. Maxwell said then he saw the third vehicle involved in the crash, which hit his vehicle, which then spun 45-degrees and pushed him into the westbound lane where he was hit by VanVickle’s truck.
The driver of the third vehicle, Michael Rodahl, 39, Brainerd, who was pulling a trailer, reported to the state patrol that he didn’t see Maxwell’s vehicle sitting in the lane and that he lost his steering. Rodahl said his vehicle veered to the left and went down into the northbound ditch and hit a tree head on. Rodahl complained of a minor scratch on his left hand and denied medical treatment.