A driver with a checkered driving history was drunk and roaring along Olson Highway in north Minneapolis at more than 100 miles per hour just before he slammed into vehicles stopped at a red light, setting off a late-night chain-reaction crash that killed a young couple, according to charges.
Philip S. Bertelsen, 55, of Golden Valley, was charged Tuesday in Hennepin County District Court with criminal vehicular homicide in the Nov. 3 deaths of Melvin Jones, 20, of St. Paul, and his girlfriend, Brandy Banks-Sutta, 21, of Minneapolis.
Bertelsen appeared in court Wednesday on the felony charges.
He was later released from the Hennepin County jail without having to post his $100,000 bail, under specific conditions set by Hennepin County District Judge William Koch. Details on the conditions were not available Wednesday evening, but such cases typically call for no use of drugs or alcohol, completing a chemical dependency evaluation and remaining law-abiding, pretrial officials said.
Authorities say Bertelsen was traveling at more than 105 mph just seconds before impact and not much slower about 1 second before. Test results showed Bertelsen’s blood alcohol content at the time was 0.18 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving.
Bertelsen’s criminal history in Minnesota before the crash shows 11 convictions for various driving violations in slightly more than 10 years. Five of them were for speeding, one for excessive acceleration and others for disobeying signs and a stoplight.
According to the criminal complaint from the crash:
Shortly before 1:30 a.m., a Ford Explorer and a Chevrolet Impala were stopped on eastbound Olson Highway (also known as Hwy. 55) at Morgan Avenue. Bertelsen slammed his car into the rear of the Impala, which then hit the Explorer and propelled the SUV into yet another vehicle stopped at the intersection.
Jones was driving the Impala, with Banks-Sutta his passenger. They were killed on impact.
Occupants of the other vehicles had a range of noncritical injuries. Officers arrived and saw Bertelsen unresponsive behind the wheel and slumped into the passenger seat.
Information from the crash data retrieval system in Bertelsen’s car revealed that he was driving 107 mph about 3 seconds before impact and 95 mph within a second of striking the Impala.
Staff writer Joy Powell contributed to this report.