Alcohol suspected to be factor in fatal crash near Bemidji; Drivers' conditions improve
Alcohol is suspected to be a contributing factor in Monday's fatal accident near Bemidji, the Beltrami County sheriff said Wednesday afternoon.
Sheriff Phil Hodapp said the investigation continues, but once it is complete, the case will be forwarded to the Beltrami County attorney's office for consideration of charges of criminal vehicular homicide and/or criminal vehicular operation.
The man suspected of causing the crash, Anthony Dwayne Calloway, 47, of Bemidji, was upgraded from critical to stable condition Tuesday afternoon, according to Essentia Health in Fargo, N.D. One of the passengers in Calloway's vehicle died as a result of her injuries.
The other driver, Heidi Lee, 36, of Bemidji, was released Wednesday morning from Sanford Medical Center in Fargo, Hodapp said. She is seven months pregnant, and the sheriff said he knew of no complications.
Dawn Marie Boyd, 47, died in the crash when the Dodge Caravan driven by Calloway crossed into the opposing lane of New Bass Road Northeast and collided head-on with Lee's vehicle, a Honda Odyssey.
Traditional funeral services for Boyd are planned for 10 a.m. Saturday in Squaw Lake.
Rhonda and Rick Studer of Excelsior were visiting his parents on Waville Road Northeast when they decided to go into town to get some pizza, opting to take the north route around Lake Bemidji.
They were the first to come upon the crash site.
"My husband said, 'Are we the first ones here?'" recalled Rhonda Studer from their home in the Twin Cities.
It was clearly a bad crash, she said. The minivans were smashed up and there was debris everywhere.
She called 911 as her husband went to check on the victims. Another man pulled up behind them and immediately called his mother, an off-duty EMT with North Memorial Air Care.
At the time, a Beltrami County sheriff's deputy was about a half mile away, he was the first emergency worker to reach the scene, followed by the EMT.
Rick Studer and the other man went to the Odyssey, where Lee, who could not get out of her vehicle, asked them to get her 2-year-old son out of his car seat because she was afraid the van would catch on fire, Rhonda Studer said.
"Nobody in the Caravan was communicative at that point," she said.
The men took the toddler from his car seat and gave him to Rhonda Studer, who took him to her vehicle away from the scene, she said.
There was not a mark on him, and other than being scared and not understanding what was going on, he appeared to be fine, she said.
Lee borrowed Rick Studer's cell phone and called her husband, who works in Bemidji. Rhonda Studer said she and the toddler stayed together in the vehicle until his father arrived.
"I basically played babysitter for the next hour," she said.
A rescue rig from Bemidji Fire, two helicopter air ambulances and three ground ambulances responded to the crash scene, where emergency crews used "Jaws of Life" equipment to extract the injured from the vehicles.
"It was pretty impressive watching those emergency folks work," she said. "It was awesome. They were a total team. If I'd been one of those drivers, I'd want those folks there."
Once the emergency crews and the father arrived on scene, the Studers left, returning to her in-laws' home "to decompress."
By then, they had heard one person died, but they were pretty confident the toddler and his mom were going to be OK.
"I'm glad we could help a little bit," she said, noting that at least they were able to tend to the toddler so emergency workers could focus on those more seriously injured.
Rhonda Studer said that when she retells the story, listeners have said that it is so good that they stopped, that they didn't just keep going.
"You couldn't possibly drive by this," she said.