Prosecutors have filed charges of criminal vehicular homicide against a Hastings man suspected of driving away after a 1,100-pound boulder fell off his truck and killed two women passing by in a car.
Joseph Paul Czeck, 33, made his first court appearance Friday and was charged with four felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide, each of which carry up to 10 years in prison. Two of the charges claim gross negligence, and the other two involve leaving the scene. Bail was set at $70,000.
According to the criminal complaint filed by the Dakota County Attorney’s Office, Czeck was driving along Rich Valley Boulevard in Rosemount just after 4:30 p.m. Monday, hauling unsecured boulders in the back of his truck. When the truck crossed over a railroad track, one of the boulders flew out of the truck bed, crossed the median and bounced into the windshield of an oncoming car.
That car was driven by Karen Christiansen, who was taking her daughter Jena to the family home in Shoreview. Both were pronounced dead at the scene.
Jena, 32, had been living in Superior, Wis., and managing a Red Lobster restaurant. Karen, 67, was retired from her job as a training representative at Dakota County Technical College. Jena and her boyfriend, Ryan Kilian, were in the process of moving to the Twin Cities, where she had just started at the Red Lobster in Bloomington, Kilian told the Star Tribune.
The complaint says that Czeck kept driving for nearly a mile after the boulder had fallen from the truck before pulling over, according to surveillance video from neighboring businesses. He walked around the truck, got back in and took off again in the direction he had been headed, according to the complaint. He pulled over once more a short while later for about two minutes and then resumed driving.
Police said that surveillance videos from before the crash appear to show that the boulders were unsecured in Czeck’s truck, according to the complaint.
Czeck never reported the incident. Police arrested him Wednesday in an Inver Grove Heights home.
“This was a senseless and avoidable tragedy that claimed two lives,” Dakota County Attorney James Backstrom said in a statement. “Anyone involved in a vehicle crash must remain at the scene and contact law enforcement.”