Uncle of NHL star Byfuglien killed when ATV hits car

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 6, 2012 - 8:55 AM

An uncle of professional hockey star and Roseau native Dustin Byfuglien was killed while riding an ATV on a highway frontage road in the far northern Minnesota town, authorities and family said Wednesday.

Don A. Byfuglien, 53, died after the recreational vehicle he was operating hit a car Tuesday afternoon on the north frontage road for Hwy. 11, according to the State Patrol.

He was thrown from the four-wheeler. He had on no restraint devices and no helmet, the patrol said. Court records show him being ticketed twice three days apart in April 2011 for failure wear a seat belt.

The car's driver, Joann J. Eisele, 51, of Middle River, Minn., was not hurt.

Dustin Byfuglien grew up in Roseau and is an NHL veteran who starred for the Chicago Black Hawks when they won the Stanley Cup in 2010. He now plays for the Winnipeg Jets. He was traveling from the Twin Cities to northern Minnesota on Wednesday and was not immediately available for reaction to the death of his mother's brother.

Don Byfuglien took the side-by-side Polaris Ranger from the shop to run a quick errand for a mechanic at D & E Sports when he was hit, said Dale Smedsmo, who owns the dealership and is the longtime boyfriend of Dustin Byfuglien's mother.

"He was running to get a pop for one of our mechanics," Smedsmo said. "He just came across the road, and [the car] pulled out in front of him."

Don Byfuglien was returning from the hardware store on the south side of the highway, according to the patrol. When the off-road vehicle reached the frontage road north of the highway, it struck an eastbound car that had just left a car wash.

The crash occurred about a half-mile from a Polaris manufacturing plant, a major employer in the small town with a rich high school hockey heritage.

"Our hearts and prayers go out to all who were involved in this tragic accident and especially to the Byfuglien family," said company spokeswoman Marlys Knutson in a statement issued Thursday. "This tragedy affects the entire Roseau community, our hometown, with over 1,600 Polaris employees.

"Donny probably had more friends in Roseau than most people," Smedsmo said. "He was really good friends with my mechanics. He hung around here, and when someone needed a helping hand, he'd chip in."


 
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