Alcohol-related deaths lowest ever

Alcohol-related deaths in Minnesota reached an all-time low of 163 in 2008, but still represented 36 percent of all traffic fatalities, state officials reported Wednesday.

The numbers were released as part of the Department of Public Safety's Minnesota Motor Vehicle Impaired Driving Facts, 2008. Figures for 2009 will be released in the spring.

Also in the 2008 report:

• The 4,245 alcohol-related crashes not only killed 163 people but injured another 2,896.

• There were 35,794 DWI arrests, for a daily average of 98.

• During 2004-08, Minnesota averaged 179 alcohol-related traffic deaths and 37,524 DWIs annually.

In all, one in eight Minnesota drivers has a DWI on record, and one in 18 have two or more DWIs. The state reports that 41 percent of those who have one violation will get caught driving drunk a second time.

PAUL WALSH

Drivers killed in head-on crash

Two drivers died in a head-on collision early Wednesday in rural Isanti County.

According to the sheriff's office, the men were found dead shortly after 5:30 a.m. at the intersection of a county road and a residential street in North Branch township, east of the city of Isanti.

The drivers were identified only as a 35-year-old man and a 29-year-old man.

Both of their vehicles sustained extensive front-end damage, the sheriff's office reported.

No other details about the crash were released.

BOB VON STERNBERG

Felon sought in shooting arrested

A repeat felon suspected of shooting a man in Northfield, Minn., was captured two days later more than 160 miles to the north after jumping on a snowmobile and trying to flee officers early Wednesday, authorities said.

Joshua Paul Barron, 26, who lives in the Northfield area, was nabbed after he crashed the snowmobile into trees and brush along a ditch on Hwy. 169 south of Aitkin, Minn., said Aitkin County Sheriff Scott Turner. Barron was not injured, officials said.

Authorities also arrested a 27-year-old woman and a 34-year-old man on drug charges at the rural Aitkin house where Barron was staying.

Barron is suspected of shooting 51-year-old Loran Sirek of Cannon Falls, Minn., outside a Northfield home. Sirek's injuries were not life-threatening.

Records show that since 2003, Barron has been convicted nine times of such felonies as drug offenses, theft and fleeing a police officer.

PAUL WALSH