Every Sunday, almost without fail, neighbors marveled as they watched the family next door leave for church in native African garb. The three generations lived together, walked to the park together and, neighbors stressed, prayed together.
Modupe Olabisi, the 80-year-old grandmother, was among the first to send a gift and console Coon Rapids neighbor Debbie Rolland when Rolland lost a family member. On Monday, Rolland and other shocked neighbors remembered Olabisi, who was killed — as was her daughter, Olawuni Olabisi-Barbington, 44, and grandson, Oluwasen Barbington, 16 — in a three-vehicle interstate crash in north Minneapolis on Sunday.
Five other family members in the van were injured, with at least two reported in critical condition Monday night. Upgraded to serious condition was Akinbowale Barbington, 51, who was not aware late Monday that his wife, son and mother-in-law had died, the family’s pastor said.
The family members were on their way home from the New Wine Church in Minneapolis when their van was struck on westbound Interstate Hwy. 94 near 49th Avenue N. by a vehicle that had been in a collision.
“They were kind people,” Rolland said. “They were deeply religious, kept to themselves and they were quiet — unless they thought they could do something to help you.”
Four of the eight people in the van were ejected and either had not been wearing their seat belts or were not wearing them properly, said State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske. Three of the four died at the scene.
“The fact can’t be ignored that if they had worn seat belts, it could have ended in a different result,” Roeske said.
Three other people died in separate crashes on Twin Cities roads Sunday and early Monday, bringing the toll to nine statewide on state roads since Saturday, the State Patrol said. At least one of the other victims was not wearing a seat belt, authorities said. Of the 864 traffic deaths on Minnesota roads the past three years, 352 of the victims — or 41 percent — were not wearing seat belts, according to the State Patrol.
“Tragic periods like this past weekend show how deadly our roads can turn,” Roeske said Monday in St. Paul. “The people who lost their lives in these crashes are the reasons we all need to take the task of driving seriously and make safe decisions behind the wheel.”
Roeske said nearly all crashes the patrol handles involve at least one of four factors: speeding, impaired or distracted driving or an unbuckled motorist.
Authorities identified the survivors of the crash on Interstate 94 but had not released the names of those who died. Pastor Tony Oliha of New Wine Church and neighbors confirmed their identities.
Akinbowale Barbington was driving the van, the patrol said. The other survivors were identified as Oluremi Ogundare, 61, Fisayo Barbington, 15, Faith Barbington, 12, and Tobi Barbington, 5.
According to the patrol: The van was westbound on I-94 when a Jeep SUV and a Honda car collided. The Jeep went up the right shoulder, through a chain-link fence and came to rest on a sidewalk. The Honda hit the shoulder, returned to the lane of traffic and struck the van. The van careened off the concrete median the rolled several times.
The drivers and a passenger in the Jeep and Honda suffered non-life-threatening injuries, Roeske said.
Both Rolland and Judy Johnson, the Barringtons’ next-door neighbor, spoke warmly of Akinbowale Barbington, who has been an emergency medical worker and a caregiver to adults.
He is “a very nice man, very quiet and humble,” Rolland said.
A group of about 40 people came to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale on Sunday night to visit the injured, who are described as members of the Twin Cities Nigerian community.
In the three other fatal metro-area crashes, authorities said:
• A speeding motorcyclist, who at one point reached 130 miles per hour, crashed with the patrol in pursuit Sunday evening. The rider went from I-94 in Minneapolis to westbound I-694, then north on Brooklyn Boulevard. The motorcycle went through at least two red lights and hit a car near Welcome Avenue.
The motorcyclist, Tyron A. Somaiah, 23, of Crystal, was dead at the scene. The car’s driver was not critically hurt.
• A woman, 55, was run over Sunday afternoon at Lexington Avenue and Victoria Street in Shoreview. Her name has yet to be released.
• A woman crashed her vehicle into a tree and was killed on Shingle Creek Parkway in Brooklyn Center at about 1 a.m. Monday. Her name has yet to be released. She was not wearing a seat belt.