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Road rage blamed in Duluth chase, crash near interstate

Crash scene

A Duluth man is clinging to life in a Twin Cities hospital after a Monday crash that resulted from an apparent road rage incident.

Guy Robert Gaskill, 37, was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center on Monday evening.

"He's still alive; they're trying to keep him going," James Gaskill, Guy's father, said Tuesday afternoon. "We wouldn't know anything more for a couple of days. He went through a couple emergency surgeries, one for a ruptured artery and the other for something about his lungs.

"I'm kind of still in shock," James Gaskill said. "It's still a touch-and-go thing; we don't know how healthy he is going to be. I might know more in a couple days. Right now, let's just hope he lives."

Guy Gaskill lost control of his Chevy Blazer and struck a traffic light pole at 26th Avenue East and London Road while chasing a vehicle driven by Richard G. Widell, 38, of Barnum, the Minnesota State Patrol said. The chase on northbound Interstate 35 apparently began in West Duluth.

"The early indications from the investigation are that they appeared to have had a confrontation in West Duluth, carried it onto the interstate, where the vehicles were chasing each other," Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Mark Baker said. "There was contact made between the vehicles prior to the Chevy Blazer losing control and hitting the light pole on London Road."

Baker said Widell, driver of the 1994 Buick LeSabre, left the accident scene. Widell later called State Patrol dispatch but he hasn't returned calls made by investigators who want to talk with him about the incident, Baker said.

Joseph Martin had left the Holiday convenience store at London Road and 26th Avenue East and was entering southbound I-35 when he saw the Blazer approaching London Road.

"It was up on two wheels, not entirely, but rocking back and forth," said Martin, who estimated the Blazer was traveling at least 50 mph. "It was skidding sideways.

"I thought he was not going to make it -- by this time the light must be red," Martin said. "I thought: 'He's going to hit a car or something.' "

Martin lost sight of the Blazer in his side-view mirror, but his 8-year-old daughter saw the accident through the rear window of the family's minivan.

"Oh my gosh, Daddy, I just saw something horrible. That man in that red car hit that pole," Martin said his daughter, Justine, told him.

Martin said he didn't notice the Buick that Gaskill reportedly was chasing.

Both Widell and Gaskill have lengthy records including motor vehicle violations.

Court records show that Widell has received numerous traffic and criminal citations over the past 15 years, including charges of burglary, property theft, forgery, disorderly conduct, possession of methamphetamine, theft of a motor vehicle, driving after revocation and fleeing a police officer. He also has repeated speeding and driving while intoxicated violations on his record.

A check of court records for Gaskill found multiple charges dating to 1992 in 18 separate cases filed in Carlton or St. Louis counties. The charges include possession of a controlled substance, robbery, escape from custody and assault. Most of the more serious charges date back to 2000 or before.

Over the past 13 months, five traffic-related cases for misdemeanor or petty misdemeanor counts were filed against Gaskill in Duluth, and his driver's license was briefly suspended twice for failure to appear.