A Twin Cities ambulance driver has been charged with three misdemeanors for crashing into a disabled semitrailer truck in Brooklyn Center and killing her partner.
Susanna G. Kelly, 28, of St. Louis Park, was charged in Hennepin County District Court with careless driving, failure to drive with due care and improper lane change in connection with the death of Marina G. DeSteno Challeen, 24, of St. Paul, early in the evening on Oct. 9 where Interstate 694 and I-94 split in Brooklyn Center.
DeSteno Challeen had been an EMT with HealthEast for about a year, had a degree in anthropology from the University of Minnesota and wanted to go to medical school but chose EMT training, according to her family.
Kelly told authorities she was trying to exit onto eastbound I-94, realized she needed to get over to the right and never saw the semi sitting on the apex with a tow truck, the criminal complaint read.
Kelly suffered noncritical injuries in the crash. Neither the semi’s driver nor the tow truck operator was hurt.
The ambulance was between calls at the time and had no patients aboard.
Kelly was charged by summons and is scheduled to appear in court on Sept. 4. A telephone message was left for Kelly seeking her reaction to the allegations.
She remains employed by HealthEast but not as an ambulance driver, a spokesman for the health provider said Monday.
According to the charges, citing witness accounts and crash reconstruction investigation:
Kelly was driving the ambulance in the left lane of eastbound I-694 and “cut off [a] semi and moved into the right lane.”
She then “suddenly crossed over the solid white fog line on the right side of I-694 in an attempt to cross the apex to ... I-94 eastbound,” the charge document continued.
The ambulance struck the disabled semi from behind at speeds of 60 to 65 miles per hour. DeSteno Challeen died in the ambulance before emergency responders could remove her.
“The manner in which [Kelly] operated the vehicle ... did in fact endanger people and property resulting in the death of the ambulance’s front-seat passenger,” the complaint read.
Following DeSteno Challeen’s autopsy in downtown Minneapolis, a long line of ambulances escorted her body to the funeral home in St. Paul. Nine days after the crash, U.S. flags at all federal and state buildings in Minnesota were flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset in DeSteno Challeen’s memory.
The declaration from Gov. Mark Dayton noted that DeSteno Challeen was “an exemplary emergency medical technician” who was “admired and respected by her colleagues.”