Man dies after crash with Minnetonka squad car on call

Fatal accident adds to history of what neighbors call "the most dangerous spot in the whole city."

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Excelsior Boulevard and Woodland Road.

Photo: Kelly Smith, Star Tribune

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A Minnetonka man died when his car and a police squad car with blaring sirens and flashing lights collided at a Minnetonka intersection, renewing concern about the safety of a busy four-way stop.

Sean Kian, 52, was about a half-mile south of his home at 9:30 p.m. Tuesday when his car collided with a squad car responding to an emergency. The State Patrol said Wednesday that Kian, who wasn't wearing a seat belt, was thrown from his 1988 BMW and died at the scene.

It's the fourth accident at the intersection of Excelsior Boulevard and Woodland Road in the past three years, according to Minnetonka police. But Wayne Heideman said that in two decades living at the corner, it's the worst accident he and his wife have seen.

"We have the most dangerous spot in the whole city," he said.

Kian was returning from Richfield after dinner with an aunt, a drive he had made several times, said his cousin, Gholam Kian of Minneapolis. Kian, a software engineer who emigrated from Iran in the early 1980s and graduated from the University of Minnesota, was "a fine man, very caring," his cousin said. "He spent a lot of time with my kids."

The officer, Daniel P. Aschenbrener, 28, who was wearing a seat belt, was briefly hospitalized.

Heideman and his wife say motorists often go through red lights and exceed the 30-mile-per-hour speed limit on Woodland Road and 40 mph limit on Excelsior.

"The intersection has been bad a long time," Mary Heideman said of other crashes, including fatal accidents. But "we've never had something like this."

When they heard the crash, they rushed outside to see Aschenbrener trying to revive Kian, who was lying in a neighbor's yard. The car nicked the corner of that home, where Barbara and Jim Yasger live.

Unanswered questions

Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said there's a high likelihood Kian would've survived if he had his seat belt on because most of the damage to the car was on the passenger side.

"There was virtually no intrusion on the driver's side," he said.

Kian was northbound on Woodland before the crash. Aschenbrener was heading west on Excelsior with his emergency lights and siren activated, answering a call about a 17-year-old threatening his family and searching for a weapon to possibly harm himself.

Investigators are determining the speeds of the vehicles, whether alcohol was a factor and what the status of the traffic signals were at the time of the accident, Roeske said.

However, all vehicles in the vicinity are required to "yield the right of way" to the squad car, he added.

Another officer responded to the initial call, and Aschenbrener was put on paid administrative leave until the investigation ends, Minnetonka Police Chief Mark Raquet said.

Court records show that Kian's Minnesota driving record includes numerous tickets dating to the 1990s and as recently as 2007, when he was cited for failing to yield to a motor vehicle. He also had been ticketed many times for speeding and failing to observe a traffic signal.

Still, Gholam Kian was disturbed after visiting the crash scene.

"I don't know how it's possible to have this kind of collision," he said. "It was very difficult for me to [see] how the trooper didn't go behind him."

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482 Kelly Smith • 612-673-4141

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  • Barbara Yasger surveyed the damage to her Minnetonka home, struck by a car driven by Sean Kian, who died after the crash.

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