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Wendy Reuer, Published December 28 2012

Two injured in pickup-semi crash on I-94 near Buffalo

BUFFALO, N.D. – Two drivers were injured Friday when a pickup lost control and was struck by an oncoming semi on Interstate 94 near here – a crash similar to one that killed six on Wednesday.

Yet, after dozens of accidents, six fatalities and a number of injuries, officials say motorists are still driving too fast.

“The roads are safe. It’s the people, their driving actions,” North Dakota Highway Patrol Capt. Brian Niewind said.

Several vehicles reportedly spun off the road in Minnesota and North Dakota on Friday morning. Though skies were clear, patches of snow and ice remained on roads.

“That was the tricky thing, the icy spots were scattered,” said Jeremiah Moerke, a spokesperson for the Minnesota Department of Transportation in Detroit Lakes.

A Minnesota State Patrol spokesperson was unavailable to say exactly how many accidents were reported Friday, but in North Dakota, Niewind said 12 vehicles spun off I-94 and into ditches between Fargo and Buffalo before 11 a.m.

Only one injury accident was reported – near Buffalo around 9:30 a.m. Friday.

According to the North Dakota Highway Patrol:

Blaine Weyrauch, 24, of Mandan, was eastbound on I-94 just east of the Buffalo exit when he lost control of his 1999 Ford F-350 towing a travel trailer.

Weyrauch crossed the median and was struck by a 2012 Peterbilt semi towing a trailer.

Weyrauch and the semi’s driver, 56-year-old John Wankel, of Woodville, Texas, suffered non-life-threatening injuries and were taken by ambulance to Essentia Health in Fargo.

A passenger in the semi, 51-year-old Regenna Davis, of Lake Park, Ga., wasn’t injured.

The accident was nearly identical to a fatal accident Wednesday near Jamestown that killed six men and sent a 24-year-old semi driver to the hospital with minor injuries. The six men were heading west on I-94 in a white crew-cab pickup when the driver lost control, crossed the median and was struck by the eastbound semi.

Only the semi driver was wearing a seat belt.

Both crashes remain under investigation by the Highway Patrol.

“These two crashes happened almost 50 miles apart, yet it’s very unusual,” Niewind said. “It’s real hard to predict where these crashes are going to happen. They happen in such scattered areas around the state.”

Oddly, troopers were called to an accident Thursday in roughly the same area as the fatal accident. This one also involved a pickup and semi near mile marker 258.

Niewind said no injuries were reported. The pickup driver was distracted and sideswiped a semi it was passing, he said.

“When we got the call involving a pickup and semi, it was a little eerie,” Niewind said. “At least if we have to respond to a crash, that’s what we want to respond to.”

As New Year’s Eve approaches, a busy time for motorists, Niewind and Moerke are reminding motorists to heed winter driving tips:

Watch your speed, do not use cruise control and allow safe following distances.

“Be patient. In about seven months, it will all be over,” said Clay County Chief Deputy Matt Siiro.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530