A series of collisions involving two semitrailer trucks and a car on Hwy. 52 in Goodhue County killed two people and sent a third to the hospital Friday night, the Minnesota State Patrol said.
The crashes started about 8:40 p.m., just north of Zumbrota, Minn. According to the State Patrol: A 2010 Chevrolet Impala heading south crossed the median near milepost 79 and collided with the northbound semi. Then the second semi crashed into the car, which was stalled in the northbound lane.
Killed were Aishia Y. Ruiz, 23, of Minneapolis, and Juan P. Martinez, 47, of Valrico, Fla. A 22-year-old Rochester man, Paul A. Martinez, was taken to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester with a serious injury, according to information released by the State Patrol. They were in the Impala, the patrol said, but the driver was not known.
The semi drivers — Paul V. Eversman, 62, of Wabasha, Minn., and Mark E. Batz, 57, of Apple Valley — were not hurt.
It was one of two serious crashes on Hwy. 52 within a half-hour on Friday night. The other happened about 9:10 p.m. on the southbound side of the highway at Skunk Hollow Trail, south of Cannon Falls.
In that crash, the State Patrol said a southbound 2004 Chevrolet Impala that had struck a guardrail was blocking the left lane and facing north. A Chevy Tahoe headed south carrying a family of four from Zumbrota hit the Impala head-on, totaling it, according to the patrol.
The only person hurt was the driver of the Impala, Earl Booth, 54, of Minneapolis. Booth, who was taken to St. Marys Hospital, was not wearing a seat belt, according to the patrol. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.
Concern about safety on the busy highway between Rochester and the Twin Cities has led to years of calls for upgrades, with a high-profile project removing traffic lights completed in September. From 2001 to 2010, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) reported 3,240 crashes on Hwy. 52 from Olmsted County Road 22 to Concord Boulevard in Inver Grove Heights, 47 of them fatal.
In February, a 42-year-old Stewartville, Minn., man was run over while crossing Hwy. 52 on the southern edge of Cannon Falls, near Goodhue County Road 24. State Patrol officials said last month that they were investigating Patrick E. Daly's death as a possible hit-and-run..
That intersection was where a traffic light was removed in September, along with one in July at a nearby intersection with Hwy. 52. Those two intersections with Hwy. 52 saw 124 crashes between 2004 and 2014, according to MnDOT, with three serious injuries and one death.
The lights' removal meant drivers between the Twin Cities and Rochester didn't need to stop for a traffic light. It was part of a number of upgrades in the area, including realigning County Road 24, building new frontage roads and eliminating four intersections without traffic lights.
However, those changes, however, are drawing complaints from area business owners, KTTC-TV reported. The Cannon Falls City Council is scheduled to discuss the issue Tuesday, and the Goodhue County Board recently discussed a letter of support for changes, including a bridge over Hwy. 52.
Staff writers Tim Harlow, Katie Humphrey and Paul Walsh contributed to this report.