Wright County prosecutors filed felony charges Friday against a driver who hit three Rogers High School students with his pickup truck while they were crossing the street to board a school bus, sending them to the hospital with serious injuries.
Cody Pech, 22, of Lexington failed “to exercise even a scant level of care” and his conduct “amounts to great negligence,” according to the criminal complaint. He’s charged with three counts of criminal vehicular operation by negligence — two counts causing great bodily harm and one count causing substantial bodily harm.
According to charges, Pech said he did not see the teenagers, the school bus or its flashers until it was too late. The complaint does not reference intoxication or cellphone use.
The Sheriff’s Office identified the students as Greta Jenson, Beckett Olson and Ian Orina — all 15-year-olds from Otsego.
At the time of the charges, Olson was still unconscious and in critical condition, suffering a head injury, a severely fractured leg and internal injuries that required surgery. Jenson has a ruptured spleen that will need to be removed, in addition to serious facial fractures, broken ribs and severe foot lacerations. Orina was also still in critical condition with facial fractures, a broken collar bone and a bruised lung.
According to the complaint:
Around 6:50 Thursday morning, the bus driver stopped on 78th Street and Parrish Avenue NE. in Otsego. The driver, Jane Moe, told investigators she pulled over to the shoulder and switched on her flashers to indicate the stop. She saw a Chevrolet Silverado coming at 30-40 mph before it “plowed into the students” as they crossed the street.
This was the last bus stop, meaning about 25 students watched the crash from inside the bus.
After the crash, Pech admitted to investigators that he struck the kids with his truck, according to the complaint. He said he did not see the children or the bus flashers until it was too late. He slammed his brakes to stop, he said, but still slid into the kids.
Moe, however, told police she “didn’t hear any tires squealing or other indication the vehicle slowed down before striking the students.” And several students who witnessed the crash corroborated that the bus was stopped, the red flashers were activated and the “stop” arm was down.
Pech has prior convictions for speeding three times within an eight-month span, along with convictions for altering vehicle equipment, lack of proof of insurance and an expired registration. His stepfather, Jason Palmer, told the Star Tribune Pech had just bought the pickup a few days before the crash.
Two other kids were also crossing the street at the time of the crash, but they were not injured.