A two-vehicle accident Aug. 24 in Park Rapids put a Colorado woman in the hospital with a head injury, leading to a charge of reckless driving.
The Park Rapids Enterprise requested public data about the crash on Aug. 25. The Park Rapids Police Department provided the material on Oct. 12.
According to reports filed by several city police officers, the crash was reported at 3:33 p.m. in front of Pizza Ranch.
Responding officers found a 2020 Toyota Corolla in the north ditch with significant rear-end damage and a 2000 Honda Civic on the south shoulder of the road with major front-end damage. A speed radar trailer operated by the police department was also damaged in the crash.
The Corolla’s driver was identified as Marilyn K. Powers, 78, of Lakewood, Colo., who also has a home in Hackensack. The Honda was driven by Nathaniel D. Walker, 23, of Park Rapids.
When questioned at the scene, Powers said she had bought a sandwich and pulled into Pizza Ranch to eat it, police reported. She said she did not see any vehicles coming as she was leaving the parking lot to head east on Hwy. 34, when her car was rear-ended by the Civic.
Powers, who had a large bump on her head after the accident, was described as confused and unable to recall much of the incident at that time. She was transported to CHI St. Joseph’s Health for medical treatment.
Later, Powers recalled that she pulled out of Pizza Ranch when there was a break in traffic behind a big truck, police reported. She said she checked to make sure there were no other cars in the way before moving into the left lane, and she was wearing a seat belt during the crash.
A doctor at the hospital confirmed to police that Powers suffered a hematoma on her head from striking something, despite being belted in.
Reckless driving alleged
Meanwhile, police at the scene reported, Walker said he was accelerating to around 60 mph when the Corolla pulled out of Pizza Ranch and cut him off, leaving him no time to react. He said his speedometer works intermittently but he wasn’t going full throttle.
Officers noted the accident occurred in a 40 mph zone, and observed skid marks from the Civic in the eastbound right lane extending for 97 feet.
Witness Theodore Smolenski of Akeley told officers at the scene that he was walking out of Pizza Ranch when he heard brakes screeching and saw smoke coming from the Civic’s tires. Then he heard the crash and saw the Corolla veer across the highway.
Another witness, truck driver Robert Larson of West Fargo, N.D., told officers at the scene he was driving in the eastbound right line on Hwy. 34 when the Civic approached behind him and passed him going very fast. He said it pulled in front of him and accelerated at high speed before striking the other vehicle.
Both vehicles were towed to the police station for further investigation.
In a follow-up interview on Aug. 25, Larson later recalled that the vehicle that passed him had loud exhaust and was traveling “two or three times faster than all other traffic” and was “powering up,” police reported. When the other vehicle pulled out of Pizza Ranch, Larson said the driver who had passed him slammed on his brakes.
In a follow-up interview on Aug. 29, Walker reportedly told police he was heading home from work and the other driver didn’t see him and cut him off. He claimed he was keeping with the flow of traffic, estimating his speed at 40-45 mph but accelerating toward the approaching 55 mph zone, police reported.
Walker said he didn’t think he was going too fast, as he planned to get into the right-turn lane at County Road 107 just ahead, police reported. He did not recall changing lanes and passing another vehicle.
On Oct. 12, Hubbard County Prosecuting Attorney Jonathan Frieden confirmed that Walker was being charged with reckless driving under Minnesota Statute 169.13 subd. 1, a misdemeanor that upgrades to a gross misdemeanor if it results in great bodily harm.
However, Frieden noted, Walker had not been heard on the charge, which is an accusation only until proven in court.