Semi driver charged in fatal work zone rear-end crash near Redwood Falls
A semi driver has been charged in a work zone rear-end crash that killed a woman in 2021.
Jay David Klabunde, 55, of Springfield, was charged Thursday in Redwood County Court with felony counts of 2nd-degree manslaughter, criminal vehicular homicide, and criminal vehicular operation.
The crash on Sept 1, 2021, left 92-year-old Mary Ann Olson of Redwood Falls with significant injuries. She was airlifted to North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, where she died the following day. Ten others were also injured, including four young children and a teenager.
A crash report from the state patrol says three vehicles stopped for a MnDOT flagger on Highway 71 north when the semi, driven by Klabunde, rear-ended a fourth vehicle as it was preparing to stop for the flagger, causing a chain-reaction crash.
Investigators say the semi was loaded with soybean oil at the time of the crash.
Klabunde told investigators he had seen no road work signs on Highway 71, nor did he see the MnDOT flagger. But investigators note in a criminal complaint that there were three posted warnings of an upcoming work zone and flagger.
The complaint says Klabunde claimed he saw a vehicle sitting on the road with no brake lights so he assumed it was moving until he got closer. Klabunde told police he began slowing down, but the brakes locked up and he hit the SUV while traveling about 30 to 40 mph.
The MnDOT flagger told investigators he didn’t hear the semi brake, and it appeared to be going highway speeds at the time of the crash.
Investigators say an inspection of the tractor-trailer didn’t reveal any mechanical defects or errors contributing to the crash. Crash reconstruction evidence showed Klabunde was driving about 41 to 52 mph at the time of the impact, and about 65 to 68 miles per hour prior to the crash, which is over the posted speed limit, according to the complaint.
Court documents say Verizon data showed Klabunde had made a 15-minute long phone call that began at 10:55 a.m. The crash was reported to 911 at 11:12 a.m.