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Glut of Fargo crashes slows investigations

Cass County prosecutors won't get police reports on a spate of major crashes in Fargo until at least next week, police said Tuesday.

The series of accidents in a three-week span - a tragic string that includes five fatalities, the only five traffic deaths in Fargo for all of 2009 and 2010 - has strained the resources of Fargo police's traffic unit, slowing the investigations, Sgt. Joe Anderson said.

Anderson said he and Capt. David Todd will start reviewing reports Monday, with fatal accidents getting the highest priority.

"We'll triage them and send them over," he said.

Anderson said "probably only a few" of the crashes will prompt police to suggest charges.

Fargo police reconstruction experts have worked seven major crashes in the past month, and the department has seven crash experts, Anderson said.

However, four of the officers trained in reconstruction have been on vacation or family medical leave, so there's been a shortage of manpower, he said. A glut of accidents also ramped up demand for the software used to diagram crashes. Police have just one license for the software, meaning only one computer can run it at any one time.

Anderson said police are looking at buying more of the licensing keys, which run about $1,700 apiece.

"We just haven't had this happen before," he said of the string of accidents. "It's never been an issue."

The seven crashes that have required reconstruction:

Oct. 17

Ruben Perales, 23, died after his car crossed the median on South University Drive and struck a pillar at the Interstate 94 underpass.

Though family members reject the possibility, police are investigating whether he was drag racing with a second vehicle. Anderson said if a second driver was racing Perales, that person could face charges.

Oct. 16

A 17-year-old junior at Fargo South, Tyler Tweten, died after a car driven by a 16-year-old girl hit a tree at 11th Avenue North and Seventh Street.

Police haven't identified the other two passengers or the driver of the vehicle, as all may face charges.

Oct. 15

Police allege that Adam Harildstad, 21, of Fargo, was intoxicated when he ran a vehicle into a building at 3598 Woodbury Park Drive.

In addition to a charge of driving while intoxicated, a misdemeanor, Harildstad faces felonies of leaving an accident scene and reckless endangerment.

Oct. 8

Fargo man Marcus Bearstail, 51, was killed after being struck by a car as he crossed 13th Avenue South just west of 40th Street.

Anderson said while the investigation is open, he is not expecting charges for the driver, Zachory Friesz.

Oct. 1

Anderson said he's also not expecting charges in a crash at 45th Street and Seventh Avenue South that injured Nathan Hesse, who was riding a motorcycle.

Hesse, 31, of Fargo, was seriously hurt when he was hit by a pickup driven by Christopher Dodge, 34, of West Fargo.

Sept. 30

A Fargo couple, Salih and Merlina Ibralic, died after the motorcycle they were riding hit a First United Methodist bus as it tried to turn into Carlson Library on 32nd Avenue South.

The bus was driven by a 51-year-old Fargo woman, Kathleen Johnson. Speed was likely a factor but not necessarily the cause of the crash, police have said.

Sept. 29

The driver was injured in a one-vehicle crash at 19th Avenue North and Fourth Street. Anderson said alcohol was suspected as a cause, and the driver sustained the only injuries.