Da’Koi Hines is used to seeing drivers going fast as they cross over Interstate 94 on the bridge near his apartment in north Minneapolis. But on Wednesday night, a driver going “super duper” fast rounded the corner from Washington Avenue. He never completed the turn.
Hines was taking out the garbage just before 10 p.m. when he saw the Cadillac ATS strike the curb where Washington turns into 41st Avenue N., then go airborne through a guardrail and plunge several feet onto the westbound lanes of Interstate 94 below. The car landed on its wheels and caught fire just as rescue workers arrived and pulled a man and a woman out of the car, another witness said.
“I saw the car rolling,” Hines said of the horrific wreck. “There were car pieces all over the place. They had to break the door to get the people out.”
Paramedics performed CPR on the driver, identified by the State Patrol as Floyd Douglas Cunningham, 31, of Minneapolis. The passenger, Lancha Robertson, 37, of Minneapolis, walked to a stretcher. “That was amazing to see,” said Elizabeth Downs, who also saw the wreck from a parking lot near the crash scene.
Both victims were taken to North Memorial Medical Center in Robbinsdale. Cunningham died at the hospital. Robertson was in critical condition Thursday morning.
Downs heard a loud boom and saw the car land in the far right lanes, which were closed to traffic because of construction. Rescue workers originally thought the crash happened on the overpass and had to scurry down to the freeway to reach the mangled car, she said. Once there, they pulled Robertson out first, and “had to mess with the door quite a lot” to get Cunningham out. “It was scary to watch,” she said.
It was not clear how far the vehicle fell, but the bridge clearance on the east end where the car went overboard is about 16 feet, the Minnesota Department of Transportation said.
Authorities closed the westbound lanes of I-94 for several hours as they extinguished the fire, investigated the crash and cleaned up debris strewn over a large area.
The State Patrol said excessive speed was a big factor in the crash. Cunningham had been seen driving at very high speeds before he lost traction and hit the guardrail, said Tiffani Nielson of the State Patrol.
“This was not a pursuit,” she said. “No indicator of medical problem. No indication of mechanical problem yet,” she added.
The patrol’s preliminary report indicates that both Cunningham and Robertson were wearing seat belts and that alcohol was not a factor in the crash.
For Hines, crashes near his apartment on Lyndale Avenue are nothing new. He said he’s seen four wrecks in the area where Wednesday’s fatal mishap occurred in just the past year, including one rollover. This one was by far the worst.
“This just happened so fast.” he said.