The driver of a pickup truck was extremely drunk when he hit an SUV head-on in western Minnesota, seriously injuring the men’s head basketball coach at Southwest Minnesota State University and killing his infant son, according to charges filed Tuesday.
A preliminary breath test taken by Dana A. Schoen, 38, of Starbuck, Minn., showed he had a blood-alcohol content of 0.351 percent soon after the crash Saturday night on Hwy. 29 near County Road 41 in Pope County, the criminal complaint said. That is more than four times the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
Schoen is charged with three counts of criminal vehicular homicide or operation and aggravated drunken driving. He remains held in the Douglas County jail.
According to state records, Schoen was convicted of gross-misdemeanor drunken driving in 2005 and for drunken driving in 2000. In both of those cases, also in Pope County, his blood-alcohol content was greater than 0.25 percent. Records show he also has convictions for reckless driving and speeding.
Drake Bigler, 5 months, died in the collision. His father, Brad Bigler, 33, was admitted to Avera Hospital in Sioux Falls, with broken ribs and a broken scapula.
Bigler’s wife, Heather, was driving north on two-lane Hwy. 29 about 9:25 p.m. when Schoen’s vehicle crossed the center line, according to the State Patrol. She swerved into the southbound lane in an attempt to avoid the oncoming pickup, but the vehicles hit head on.
The impact of the crash sheered off “the entire passenger side” of the SUV and the passenger side was thrown several feet into the ditch, the criminal complaint read.
Heather Bigler, 29, suffered noncritical injuries, the patrol said. Her grandmother, Sharon Schuler, 74, of Granite Falls, Minn., was taken to Avera Hospital with several broken bones.
The Biglers’ other two children, daughter Taleigha, 4, and son Nash, 2, were not in the vehicle at the time of the crash.
In a posting on his Facebook page, Brad Bigler wrote, “With tears in my eyes I am truly humbled by the support our family has received. Thank you EVERYONE! Heather Bigler is a strong woman. I love her so much and we will get thru this.”
Then, in a nod to Drake and Brad Bigler’s late mother, the coach added: “Drake and Grandma Diane Bigler-Hagenow are angels above! Drake likes to be tickled on his neck Mom!”
Southwest’s athletics director, Chris Hmielewski, visited with Heather and Brad Bigler in the hospital Monday and told Marshall Radio in Marshall that “Brad is doing well. It looks like he is improving.”
During the visit “we had some tears, and we had some laughter,” Hmielewski added. “Whenever you talk about the loss of a child in a family, it’s going to take time.”
According to the criminal complaint:
Immediately after the crash, a “swaying” Schoen told a state trooper that he had “a couple/few” drinks and that he would flunk the preliminary breath test he was about to receive.
The trooper saw on the ground next to Schoen’s pickup six light beer cans, two of them empty. Inside the truck were several more, some opened and some not.
The complaint did not say how long Schoen, who was not hurt in the collision, had been drinking that day. An online calculator run by the University of Notre Dame’s office of alcohol and drug education finds that a man of Schoen’s approximate weight, 155 pounds, would have to drink at least 17 light beers in three hours to reach the 0.351 percent that the State Patrol measured the night of the crash.
Brad Bigler took over as head coach at the university in Marshall three years ago. He previously has served as an assistant coach and played for five seasons for the team, the Mustangs.
This past season, he guided the Mustangs to their first Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament championship and the school’s third appearance in the NCAA Division II tournament.
Star Tribune staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report. Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482