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Boy, 12, in critical condition following Grand Forks County crash that injured 4

A Grand Forks County sheriff's deputy investigates a traffic accident near the intersection of U.S. Highway 2 and state Highway 18, north of Larimore. Five juveniles were injured when the car went into the shelter belt at high speed.

Elizabeth Wallace was driving home Tuesday evening on North Dakota Highway 18 near Larimore when a large white object zipped across the road about 150 feet in front of her.

"I didn't even realize it was a car. That will tell you how fast it was going," she said.

Wallace, 49, said the car went straight across the highway, flew over a ditch and ended up in some woods.

"The whole car was in the tree line. The only thing that stopped it was a big huge oak tree," she said. "I did not realize it was a car until the back bumper flew out of the woods."

The 1996 Pontiac Bonneville was carrying five young people, who ranged in age from 12 to 17, when it crashed about 7 p.m. Authorities have not identified them because the North Dakota Highway Patrol is still investigating to determine whether charges will be brought in connection with the crash, said patrol Sgt. Aaron Hummel.

Those in the Pontiac all were taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks. A 17-year-old girl in the car was not injured, and three others suffered injuries that were not life threatening, Hummel said.

He said the fifth person in the car, a 12-year-old boy, was airlifted to Sanford Medical Center in Fargo. The boy was listed in critical condition Wednesday, Sanford spokeswoman Andrea Voorhees said.

After Wallace saw the crash, she pulled over, called 911 and rushed to the Pontiac. The front end was crumpled down to about two feet. Airbags had deployed in the front seat where two teenagers, a boy and a girl, were sitting.

After checking on the two in the front seat, she saw a person sit up in the back and then discovered there were three more kids in the car.

The pair in the front seat and two of the backseat passengers were able to exit the car on their own. "Four of them basically were mobile, and one was not," she said, referring to the 12-year-old who was airlifted. "He was really bad."

The Pontiac turned around in the driveway of Hoverson Farms potato operation just before the crash, Carl Hoverson said. The car left Hoverson's property heading east and crossed in front of Wallace who was going north on state Highway 18.

After noticing vehicles stopped along the highway, Hoverson went to offer his help. He said an ambulance from Larimore promptly arrived at the scene, and two other ambulances came later.

According to the patrol, the 17-year-old girl, the one who was not injured, said she was driving the car. However, Hummel said, the question of who was actually driving is under investigation. Wallace said the teenage boy was in the driver's seat when she arrived at the scene less than a minute after the crash.

The 17-year-old girl reportedly told the patrol she was planning to go south on state Highway 18 toward Larimore, about 2½ miles away, when a mechanical problem caused her to lose control of the car. Hummel said the patrol is investigating the cause of the crash, whether there was a mechanical problem and whether those in the car were wearing seat belts. He said neither drugs nor alcohol was a factor.

Wallace, who lives in Drayton, N.D., said the Pontiac just missed the truck driving in front of her. She figures that if she was not driving below the speed limit, her vehicle would have been hit.

"If I had been going faster, yeah, I wouldn't be talking to you," she said.