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Icy roads contribute to numerous crashes over the deer hunt weekend

By Sarah Smith

Road officers were swamped over the weekend, but not with hunting calls.

State, county and city officers went from crash to crash as Minnesotans and visitors re-learned their winter driving skills.

Mostly, the careless learned that “driving to the conditions” does not mean the posted speed limit.

It started Friday night with an inch of snow.

Two separate drivers lost control on U.S. Highway 71 north of Park Rapids and went into the ditch Friday evening. There were no serious injuries reported.

The State Patrol is investigating a serious crash on Highway 371 south of Walker in which a southbound vehicle lost control on ice and slid into the path of a northbound vehicle Friday night.

Steven K. Merritt, 42, of Hackensack, the driver of the northbound vehicle, was transported to Brainerd and then airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center with critical injuries. Emily Widman, 15, of Walker, and Grace Steward, 16, of Akeley, passengers in the southbound minivan, were taken by ambulance to St, Joseph’s Area Health Services in Park Rapids with non-life-threatening injuries.

The driver of the minivan, Kara Widman, 47, of Walker, was not injured.

By Sunday morning, road patrols were calling for sanding trucks. An icy glaze covered most area roads.

Two single rollover crashes were reported in Hubbard County within a half hour of each other.

The first, at the intersection of county roads 2 and 86, did not involve injuries. The second, on Hubbard County 12 near the Cass County line, may have involved minor injuries to the driver.

Hubbard County Dep. Troy Christenson was so concerned about the icy conditions near Foxfire Road that he stayed on the County 12 scene after two other vehicles “hit the ditch” in order to avoid that crash.

The driver rolled several times, according to an eyewitness.

Christensen was then dispatched to Junco Drive, where two vehicles collided. There were no injuries in that incident.

The State Patrol and National Weather Service out of Grand Forks both issued a warning about the icy roads all three days of the weekend, asking motorists to slow down.

Sarah Smith

Sarah Smith is the outdoors editor. She covers courts, business and breaking news in addition to outdoors events.

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