An Orono man whose two passengers died when he crashed his car into a cluster of trees near his Lake Minnetonka home turned himself in to authorities Wednesday.
James David Blue, 51, drove off North Shore Drive on Saturday around 11:30 p.m., striking the trees before being thrown from his 2017 Bentley. The crash killed passengers Sam Schuneman, 24, and Mack Motzko, 20, who were wearing seat belts, authorities said. Blue was treated for injuries at North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale and later released.
Blue was released without bail on Wednesday. Authorities said high speeds and alcohol were factors in the crash that remains under investigation.
Blue told police at the scene of the crash that he was "guilty" and had been drinking at Maynard's Restaurant in Excelsior, according to a search warrant.
Witnesses told authorities that Blue was driving "in excess of 100 mph in a posted 40 mph zone around a curve on a hill."
Police found Blue 6 to 10 feet away from the car. He was not wearing a seat belt.
Because of Blue's injuries, officers were unable to conduct field sobriety tests at the crash scene. A warrant was issued to collect a blood sample from his room at North Memorial around 1 a.m. Sunday.
While authorities have not said how Blue was connected to the victims, a friend who was at a party with them at Blue's lakeshore home offered an account of the time leading up to the crash.
Rashed Elbaba said he and his friends first met Blue that night. Blue invited about 10 to 12 of his friends in their early to mid-20s to his house for a party after they were out at Maynard's earlier that day.
He thought Motzko and Schuneman were touring the house or garage, where they discovered Blue had a "cool car and wanted to check it out."
But they began to worry when Ella Motzko, sister of Mack Motzko and Schuneman's girlfriend, couldn't reach either of them on their phones, said Elbaba, 23. "I started getting a weird feeling," he said.
As Elbaba realized his friends were missing from the party, he saw a blinding array of sirens, lights and a caravan of police squad cars rushing by along North Shore Drive, a winding road along Crystal Bay in Lake Minnetonka.
"I was piecing the puzzle together thinking the car's not here. Sam and Mack are not answering their phones. There are squad cars driving by — can this all be correlated?" he said.
A group of them walked down to the end of the driveway. "We look to our left and we see pretty much every cop in the city [and] fire trucks, ambulance," Elbaba said.
He instantly realized Schuneman, his friend since their freshman year in college, and Motzko, were involved in the crash less than 100 yards away from the party. "We saw Ella recognize her brother was getting attended by paramedics," Elbaba said.
Blue could not be reached for comment, and no one answered the door at his home on Wednesday. Family and friends of Blue have not returned calls and messages.
In recent years, Blue was cited for one driving infraction. He was convicted of a petty misdemeanor in 2017 for driving 89 mph in a 55 mph zone in Carver County.
Lives cut short
While much attention has focused on Motzko's father, who is head coach of the Gophers men's hockey team, Schuneman's father also has a deep passion for the sport. Tom Schuneman serves as chairman of the Minnesota Special Hockey board.
The adaptive ice hockey program paid tribute to Sam Schuneman, saying that he volunteered for years out on the ice with teams and selling raffle tickets. His sister, Maggie Schuneman, is a participant in the program.
In honor of Schuneman and Motzko, a "Sticks Out" campaign encourages people to place hockey sticks out on their front porch. And the occasional golf club.
Motzko worked at Minneapolis Golf Club while playing junior hockey for the Sioux Falls Stampede and the New Mexico Ice Wolves. He was an incoming recruit for the Penticton Vees, a junior "A" ice hockey team from Penticton, British Columbia. The team released a statement this week, saying that Motzko was "an exceptional young man" who will be missed.
Schuneman, who was living in Scottsdale, Ariz., and working in sales at Axon Enterprise, is originally from Maple Grove and was recently home visiting family and friends. He was supposed to fly south on Friday, but Elbaba said he delayed his flight until Sunday.
Visitation for Schuneman is planned for Friday from 4 to 8 p.m. at Gearty-Delmore Funeral Chapel in Plymouth. His funeral is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Wayzata's Church of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Motzko's service will be held on Monday at 1 p.m. at St. Cloud Cathedral High School Gym. The family is asking that friends and relatives share memories with the hashtag #momentswithmack18 and sending them to email@example.com.
The families released a statement asking for privacy before and during the services. "We understand that there has been a development in the arrest of James Blue, which we believe is a positive step in obtaining justice for Mack and Sam," it said. "At this time we have no further comment but will consider media requests to speak with family members at an appropriate time after services are completed."
Kim Hyatt • 612-673-4751