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4 killed in pickup-semi collision in Pine County

PINE CITY, Minn. -- Four people were killed and a fifth was injured in a collision between a pickup truck and semi in eastern Minnesota, sheriff's officials said.

The five were in a pickup truck that turned in front of the semi at an intersection Tuesday evening near Askov in Pine County, deputies said. Killed in the collision were two men, ages 58 and 21, a 20-year-old woman and a 17-year-old girl. A 21-year-old man was injured.

Some of the victims were related, Pine County Chief Sheriff Deputy Steven Blackwell said. All were from Askov or the surrounding area.

"The responding deputy did recognize one of them right away by face," the chief deputy said.

Two of the four people who died were riding in the open bed of the pickup when the crash happened near the farming community of about 400, Blackwell said.

Minnesota has few restrictions on people riding in a pickup bed, State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said. One prevents youngsters in the back who are covered by child safety seat laws, Roeske said.

No one of any age can ride in a pickup bed if a seat up front is unoccupied, Roeske said. Neither restriction applied in this crash.

"It's not safe, and we don't recommend it," Roeske told the newspaper. "You can be seriously injured or killed. But it's not illegal."

The semi was traveling 55 mph, Blackwell said. The wreck was so violent that it was not immediately known whether the three people in the pickup's cab were wearing their seat belts, he said.

"The wreckage is so bad you can barely recognize the truck," Blackwell said, adding that debris scattered hundreds of feet into the nearby woods. The semi hit the passenger side of the pickup where the 58-year-old victim was seated, he said. Blackwell declined to say who was driving the pickup.

Blackwell said the victims, all thrown from the pickup, may have been transporting items from one farm to another when the accident happened because wood and other things were strewn about the crash scene. There was no indication alcohol was involved in the crash, he said.

Names of the victims were not immediately released. The 17-year-old girl who was killed attended Crossroads Learning Center in Sandstone, an alternative school, an administration official told the Star Tribune.