A northern Minnesota legislator is vowing to push for safety changes at an intersection in Itasca County where two fatal crashes have left three people dead in the past two weeks.
The latest crash at County Roads 57 and 336 in Lawrence Township occurred Tuesday morning when a dump truck broadsided an ambulance, killing a paramedic and a patient.
Rep. Spencer Igo, R-Grand Rapids, said he will work with the Minnesota Department of Transportation and local officials to prevent future wrecks there.
"I am shocked and heartbroken to hear the news of this tragic traffic accident in Itasca County on Tuesday," he said in a statement. "It's clear that safety at this intersection must be improved."
The State Patrol identified the paramedic as Troy Boettcher, 51, of Warba, Minn., and the patient as Joseph Latimer, 17, of Grand Rapids, Minn. Both died at the scene. The ambulance driver, Kimberly Fay Hake, 28, of Cohasset, was taken to Grand Itasca Clinic and Hospital with life-threatening injuries, the patrol said. The dump truck driver, identified by the patrol as Jeffrey Ekholm, 67, of Nashwauk, Minn., was airlifted to St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth, the Itasca County Sheriff's Office said.
Both Ekholm and Hake were wearing seat belts. Alcohol is not suspected to have been a factor in the crash, the patrol said.
Preliminary information indicated the dump truck was traveling east on County Road 57 about 10:20 a.m. when it struck the Meds-1 ambulance on the passenger side as it headed south on County Road 336. The ambulance did not have its lights or siren on, according to the patrol.
Traffic on County Road 336 has stop signs at the intersection, while traffic on County 57 does not, said Itasca County Highway Engineer Karin Grandia.
Tuesday's crash remains under investigation and comes after a similar crash on May 24 that killed Sarah Grell of Cohasset, Minn. Grell, 39, was a DNR conservation officer.
One other crash has occurred at the intersection since 2018, which resulted in property damage, according to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.
Grandia said the intersection has clear sight lines and signs warning drivers on County Road 336 about the stop sign. After Tuesday's crash, Grandia said the county will install additional warning signs and wait for the results of an investigation to determine if anything else needs to be done.
"It's a tragic situation," she said. "That they occurred so recently is unspeakable. We want to ensure safety on our system."
A procession of ambulances, fire trucks and police cars made its way from Grand Rapids, Minn., to Anoka — where Boettcher's body was taken — Wednesday morning to honor the paramedic, who, according to his Facebook page, studied at Mesabi Range College.
Itasca County Board Chairman Burl Ives called the three deaths tragic and asked people to observe a moment of silence and thank those who serve and keep the public safe.
"We are losing too many people in Itasca," he said during Tuesday's County Board meeting. "Please drive safe, please pay attention and please be good to everybody."
Tim Harlow • 612-673-7768