A wrong-way driver on a Minnesota interstate just north of the Iowa border slammed head-on into another car, killing both motorists and sending one of the vehicles colliding into a semitrailer truck, authorities said Thursday.
The crash occurred about 6:45 p.m. Wednesday on northbound Interstate 35, about a mile north of Iowa and near the Minnesota Welcome Center, according to the State Patrol.
Killed were James D. Winnes, 28, of Albert Lea, Minn., and Kirt H. Schmidt, 46, of Owatonna, Minn., the patrol said.
Schmidt was identified by the patrol as the driver traveling south on the northbound side of the interstate.
Patrol Sgt. Bill Sires said preliminary reports have yet to reveal why Schmidt was on the wrong side of the interstate.
According to the patrol:
Winnes was in the left lane of northbound I-35, with the semi close by and heading in the same direction. Schmidt, heading south in the left lane of northbound I-35, struck Winnes’ car head-on. The impact sent Winnes’ car into the trailer of the semi.
Schmidt’s driving history includes six convictions for drunken driving, however, Sires said there is “no probable cause at this point” to indicate that he had been drinking. A definitive determination can be made following autopsy results.
The truck driver, Edward D. Renchin, 52, of Fairmont, Minn., was not hurt.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482