Misdemeanor charges filed against driver who hit Maple River cross country team

Charges have been filed against the driver who allegedly struck members of the Maple River cross country team last summer while they were bicycling near Mapleton.

Jenna Phuong-Thao Luong, 30, was charged Tuesday in Blue Earth County Court with misdemeanor careless driving for the August 5 crash, which happened on Co Rd 7 near 111th St.

The crash left 13-year-old Nora Caven, of rural Mankato, and Martha Price, 16, of rural Mapleton, both seriously injured.  Three other bicyclists – ages 12, 16, and 52 – suffered minor injuries.

A criminal complaint says Luong was emotional and crying when police arrived at the scene of the crash.  Luong told officers she was changing the radio station, and when she looked up, there were “bicyclists all over the roadway and she could not stop in time.”

Police say Luong showed no sign of impairment. A search of her phone showed that she was not using the device at the time of the crash.

Crash reconstruction by the state patrol showed determined that Luong was traveling at about 46 mph to 52 mph before the crash.  She allegedly hit the bicyclists at about 29 mph to 32 mph after braking.

The state patrol says the road is marked as a bike route, and the area around the crash site is primarily agricultural fields with no visual obstructions. Reconstruction showed that the crash could be attributed to Luong for “failure to maintain a forward field of vision.”  Investigators say Luong should have been able to recognize and respond to the bicyclists prior to the crash.

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