Charges are anticipated against a semitrailer truck driver who allegedly rear-ended a taxi sitting at a red light in St. Cloud, killing the cabdriver and one of his two back-seat passengers, authorities said Sunday.
The crash, at about 7:20 a.m. Saturday on Hwy. 10 at St. Germain Street on the city's east side, also severely injured a second cab passenger, according to the State Patrol.
Killed were Thomas L. Findlay, 66, of Sartell, the driver of the van operated by Elite Taxi, and passenger Emily R. LeTourneau, 22, of Big Lake, Minn., the patrol said. Findlay had on his seat belt; LeTourneau did not.
The other passenger in the cab, 24-year-old Marche D. Price of New Hope, was taken to St. Cloud Hospital, according to the patrol. Price also was not wearing a seat belt. Her boyfriend, Dustin Bookwalter, said her condition has improved as she recovers from a broken arm and other injuries. A hospital spokeswoman said Price was in serious condition Sunday.
The big rig's driver was identified as James D. Cockram, 61, of Owatonna, Minn. He had on his seat belt and was not hurt, the patrol said.
The cab was sitting on southbound Hwy. 10 at a red light at the intersection with St. Germain when the semitrailer truck struck the back of the smaller vehicle, according to the patrol.
Investigators say there is no indication that Cockram took any evasive action in the moments leading up to the crash, said Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson.
"Charges are likely" against Cockram after the patrol concludes its reconstruction of the wreck, Nielson said.
Findlay's son, Thomas MacGregor, said Sunday that his father took the job driving for St. Cloud-based Elite Taxi about a year or so ago after moving from Bismarck, N.D., where he drove a bus for special-needs clients.
Findlay was a tall man with a barrel-like physique. Combined with his friendly smile behind a full white beard and wire-rim glasses, "a lot of people called him Santa Claus, especially in Bismarck," said MacGregor, who lives in Pierz, Minn.
MacGregor said his father volunteered for military service and served two tours with an artillery unit. While living in Montana, he started a water company. He also had lived in the Twin Cities and Arizona.
LeTourneau and Price were friends, Bookwalter said, and had celebrated LeTourneau's birthday that previous night. He also said LeTourneau had just gotten two new jobs Friday, both at fast-food restaurants.
"But she didn't make it" long enough to report to either one, he said.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482