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3 escape submerged car in south of Grand Forks accident

Three people escaped from a submerged car Thursday night after a rear-end collision south of Grand Forks on the "cut across" to Crookston that happened as a driver was dialing a cellphone.

Sgt. Dolf Oldenburg of the North Dakota Highway Patrol said the call came in at 6:10 p.m. Thursday.

A 2010 Chrysler minivan driven by Kathleen Stortroen, 47, Climax, Minn., ran into the back of a 2000 Chevy Impala with three occupants from Crookston on Grand Forks County Road 7, about three miles east of U.S. Highway 81, east of Thompson, N.D.

Both vehicles were eastbound on the two-lane blacktop, typically considered the best route to Crookston from the south end of Grand Forks.

Karen Donarski, 57, Crookston, was driving the Impala and said she slowed to miss a deer crossing the road, Oldenburg said.

That's when Stortroen's minivan plowed into the rear of the Impala.

Stortroen told an officer on site that she "was in the process of dialing her cell phone," Oldenburg said. "She has no idea what happened."

Stortroen will be cited for a traffic violation of some sort once the accident report is completed, Oldenburg said.

The accident site is about nine miles south of Grand Forks and three miles east on County 7.

Oldenburg said the vehicle damage indicated the right front corner of Stortroen's minivan hit the driver's side rear corner of the Impala, pushing the Impala into the south ditch, where it was submerged in about 5 feet of water in a stagnant slough area.

Donarski and her passengers, Brad Giddings, 53, and Gloria Altepeter, 57, both also of Crookston, were taken to Altru Hospital to be checked out.

Donarski was not injured, while Giddings had a minor injury to his left arm and Altepeter had pain in her ribs and was being X-rayed this evening, Oldenburg said. "It looks like they all will be treated and released," he said.

Oldenburg didn't know yet if the three in the Impala got out on their own or were helped out in the five feet of water. It's a wooded area with several rural homes nearby.

Stortroen was checked at the scene and appeared to not be injured. Her minivan ended up in the north ditch.

By about 7:30 p.m., tow trucks were pulling the vehicles out.