Weather Forecast


Alleged drunken driver charged with hitting man in road in Grand Forks

A Grand Forks woman was charged Thursday with drunken driving and aggravated assault in connection with a two-vehicle crash that caused a man's leg to be amputated below the knee.

Karen Vatnsdal, 52, told the Herald she is praying for 37-year-old Michael Hart -- the man, police said, she struck with her car.

"Obviously, I'm devastated for the individual, and I'm in a shock from this incident and hopefully, you know, he's OK. And hopefully, I can be OK once this is over, too," she said.

Vatnsdal said the crash traumatized her and that she plans to seek treatment. "My family is very concerned about me," she said. "I can't eat, I can't sleep."

Vatnsdal said she was not aware of the charges filed Thursday. She said she has an attorney, but would not say who her attorney is.

She declined to discuss where she had been before the crash, whether she had been drinking or any other related details.

A criminal complaint lists personnel of Level 10, a downtown Grand Forks bar, as possible witnesses in the case. A message left at the bar Thursday evening was not returned.

A police officer's report says that shortly after the crash, Vatnsdal smelled of alcohol, had bloodshot, watery eyes and failed four different types of sobriety tests.

Vatnsdal gave authorities a blood sample to be tested for alcohol. Prosecutor Nancy Yon, who's handling the case, said Thursday that she has not received the results of that test.

The crash

According to police, Hart stopped his small 1996 Chevy pickup on DeMers Avenue just west of Columbia Road in the right lane shortly before 7:40 p.m. Sunday to retrieve an item that had fallen out of the bed of the pickup.

A 1999 Ford Taurus driven by Vatnsdal in the same westbound lane slammed into Hart and pinned him momentarily between the tailgate of his pickup and the Taurus, police said.

Hart's children, a 7-month-old girl and a 6-year-old boy, were riding in the cab of the pickup and were not injured, police said.

Hart, of Grand Forks, was taken to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis with the hope that his shattered leg could be repaired, but attempts to do so were unsuccessful, Hart's father said Tuesday.

Don Hart said he expects his son to spend two to three weeks at HCMC before starting rehabilitation. In addition to the leg injuries, the crash caused his son to suffer a collapsed lung and a partial collapse of the other lung, Don Hart said.

Vatnsdal does not have a date set for an initial appearance in state District Court. The aggravated-assault charge carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years. The drunken-driving charge has a maximum prison term of a year.

Vatnsdal also faces citations for driving with a suspended license and having no liability insurance on her car. She told the Herald she has proof of insurance and a valid license, and is disputing those citations.

A passenger in her car was also intoxicated and was arrested for disorderly conduct, police said.