A Minneapolis 911 dispatcher en route to work died when a wrong-way driver who had been drinking collided with her car on a Brooklyn Park highway, authorities said Sunday.
Jenna L. Bixby, 30, died Saturday night in the head-on crash that closed a section of Hwy. 252 for hours, according to the State Patrol.
Her husband, Daniel Bixby, was listening to the emergency dispatch audio that first reported the crash, said Andrew Williams, who heads two Twin Cities scanner monitoring groups online.
An officer at the scene of the 8 p.m. crash said over the scanner that she was “not breathing, unresponsive.”
Two hours later, State Patrol troopers were at Bixby’s door to deliver the grim news, Williams said.
“A few of us were listening at the same time last night and messaging back and forth,” Williams said. “Maybe two hours later, Dan sent a message on the board that troopers came and told him it was his wife. Yeah, it’s tough.”
In a Facebook posting Sunday morning, Daniel Bixby wrote: “Please know that I never stopped loving you with all my heart, and I will never stop loving you.”
Don Bixby, Daniel Bixby’s father, said his daughter-in-law loved her job: “She just liked helping people,” Don Bixby said.
The wrong-way driver, retired minister Richard J. Shaka, 72, of Blaine, was in critical condition Sunday at North Memorial Medical Center, the patrol added. The patrol said alcohol consumption by Shaka appears to have been a factor in the collision.
Bixby was employed by the city of Minneapolis as a 911 dispatcher. She began those duties about 3 ½ years ago, according to city records.
“Minneapolis’ Emergency Communications staff work day and night to keep people safe,” Mayor Jacob Frey said early Sunday afternoon. “As a 911 dispatcher, that’s what Jenna Bixby did for years — and what she was on her way to do at City Hall when her life was tragically taken late last night.”
The director of Minneapolis emergency communications, Heather Hunt, said Bixby also helped coach and develop new employees and was a member of the Community Outreach and Education Team, which volunteers at community events.
“Jenna embodies the caring, dedication and compassion that are the hallmarks of exceptional public service. She will be greatly missed,” Hunt wrote.
Shaka was driving his sport-utility vehicle north on southbound Hwy. 252 just north of Brookdale Drive when he hit Bixby’s car, according to the patrol.
Asked where Shaka began his misdirected travels, State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson said Sunday there was “nothing we can prove yet. ”
Shaka taught at North Central University in Minneapolis in the Bible and Theology Department from 1996 until he retired in 2011. His wife, Farella, also taught at North Central. She died in 2016.
He founded All Nations Christian Assembly in northeast Minneapolis and was a senior pastor there for more than 17 years, as was his wife.
Shaka also founded a Twin Cities nonprofit that builds orphanages and youth centers in his native Sierra Leone.
Staff writers Erin Adler and Vince Tuss contributed to this report.