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Semi driver suffers only minor injuries after truck plunges down embankment

This was the scene east of Akeley Monday night when a semi driver reached for a cup of coffee and his truck swerved off the road down a steep embankment. (Sarah Smith / Enterprise)

A Park Rapids semi driver is lucky to be alive after he reached for a coffee cup Monday night and his truck plunged over a steep embankment, striking a tree and coming to a stop before it went into a roadside lake on Highway 34.

Bill Andreoff was taken by ambulance to St. Joseph's Area Health Services in Park Rapids where he was treated and released for minor injuries. The semi is a total loss.

"He's fine," said Andreoff's employers, Steve and Robin Walsh. The semi belongs to Dick Walsh Forest Products of Park Rapids.

Andreoff was westbound on Highway 34 east of Akeley when he leaned over to retrieve his coffee cup, Steve Walsh said.

He apparently swerved the truck, which then veered off the roadway down the embankment, Walsh theorized.

"He just missed that white pine," Steve Walsh said, pointing to a tree with its bark peeled off. "But it peeled the other side of that trailer like a pop can."

The semi's trailer looked like an accordion.

The accident, after 7 p.m., stalled traffic on the busy highway for hours while State Patrol officers used fluorescent cones to guide lines of vehicles around the scene.

By 10 p.m., monster-sized wreckers were still attaching cables and chains to the wreckage to pull it up the embankment.

The accident is under investigation by the Minnesota State Patrol.