A 72-year-old man told authorities that a sneeze caused him to lose control of his pickup truck and fatally hit a teenager riding his bike along a road in rural Scott County last week, according to charges.
Joseph B. Friedges, of Lakeville, was charged Tuesday in District Court with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the crash early Friday evening that killed Braxton C. Sorenson on a road west of Elko New Market.
Friedges remains jailed in lieu of $10,000 bail ahead of a court appearance on July 18. His attorney, Christopher Grove, declined to comment on the charges.
According to the criminal complaint:
After a call to 911 around 7:10 p.m. from a passerby, law enforcement arrived at 260th Street near Zachary Avenue, found the 15-year-old on the ground dead. Sorenson's family said he often rode his bike in that area.
Friedges left the scene briefly before stopping. He approached a deputy and said he hit the teenager while driving east on 260th. He said his cruise control was set at 55 miles per hour, and "he sneezed and went into the south ditch," the charges read.
Officers detected an odor of alcohol coming from Friedges and saw that his eyes were red. He said he had two mixed drinks a couple of hours before getting in his vehicle.
Friedges showed signs of impairment while law enforcement had him take a field sobriety test. A preliminary breath test at the scene measured his blood alcohol content at 0.05%, within the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.
"Based on the debris and markings at the scene," the complaint read, officers believe that Sorenson was on his bike near the shoulder when Friedges' eastbound pickup crossed over the westbound lane of 260th and into the ditch, then came back onto the road and hit the teenager.