Stephen J. Lee, Forum Communications Co., Published January 06 2011
Grand Forks crash witness says semi ran red light
He contacted the Grand Forks Herald, saying he wants to do whatever he can to help in the aftermath of what he described as a horrific accident that raises questions about the safety of the intersection.
Determining what happened will be significant, and the Grand Forks County State’s Attorney’s Office continues to study investigative reports because criminal charges could result.
Both drivers involved have hired lawyers, one a criminal defense attorney and one an attorney who specializes in wrongful death litigation.
The fatal collision two weeks ago of an eastbound Volvo semi-truck and a northbound GMC van at the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and Grand Forks County Road 5, known as the airport road, killed Kaylee-Jo Marie Wyatt, 8, and Kevin Boyer III, 5.
The driver of the van, Kevin Boyer Jr., 39, of Grand Forks, and Xxaxx Boyer, 3, were injured; both have been discharged from Altru Hospital in Grand Forks.
Steven Nelson, 64, of Jamestown, N.D., was the driver of the eastbound semi-truck; he was treated at Altru and released later on Dec. 22.
Little official information on what happened has been released because it quickly became a possible criminal investigation, said Capt. Kevin Robson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, which responded to the accident. He turned over Patrol reports to the Grand Forks County State’s Attorney Peter Welte, Robson said.
Colley, like other witnesses, is clear about the key question.
“I know those lights were on red,” Colley said, about the east-west lights on Highway 2 at the time. “What I suspect is that the driver of the other semi took a chance, decided he thought he could make it.”
Colley, a veteran driver for an Edmonton, Alta., trucking firm, had just left Grand Forks, heading west on Highway 2, when he slowed as the flashing yellow lights ahead of the intersection signaled a soon change to red at the traffic lights.
As it happens, Colley was driving a 2005 Volvo, the same truck tractor as was Nelson, who was heading east into the intersection at the same time.
Colley said he was down to about 3 mph and about 50 feet from the intersection’s red light when he looked down to check his computer.
“I heard the impact,” he said. “I (thought) the truck was going to push the van into me, and the van began spinning, and came to stop in the median, with so much snow.”
Nelson’s truck jackknifed and ended in the median, too, with the tractor facing west, almost pinned against the UPS double-trailer it was hauling.
Colley said Nelson’s semi appeared to be going 55 to 60 mph when it hit the van.
“It was very high impact,” he said.