Malfunction suspected in vehicle rollover
The owner of the restored, 1972 Chevrolet pickup speculated that a malfunctioning fuel injection system may have caused the vehicle to run "wide open" without input from the gas pedal.
A possible malfunction caused a pickup to lose control and roll over Nov. 4 in Helga Township.
According to an incident report by the Hubbard County Sheriff’s Office, county dispatch received a report at approximately 3:06 p.m. of a single-vehicle rollover crash at County 9 and 229th Ave. A witness reported he came across the crash and found the vehicle’s two occupants requesting a ride.
Law enforcement arrived on scene to find a 1972 Chevrolet pickup with collector plates lying on its driver’s side, leaning against the tree line, facing east. The driver, Dale Donat, 59, of Bemidji was described as very upset, clutching and rubbing his chest and complaining of back pain.
Donat told law enforcement that the pickup was a custom rebuild, and that he was westbound on County 9 when he “stepped on it” but when he let off the gas pedal, the vehicle continued to “run wide open.”
Donat said he pressed the brakes but nothing happened, the report states. The vehicle entered the westbound shoulder, lost control, spun around and entered the eastbound ditch, where it struck a culvert and flipped.
According to the report, Donat said he and passenger Jon Port, 56, of Bemidji were both wearing lap belts only, as the model year did not have shoulder belts, and there were no airbags. He estimated they were traveling at about 40-50 mph at the time of the crash.
Law enforcement observed tire tracks on the shoulder where the tires had been spinning and throwing gravel, as well as tar on the pavement where the vehicle caught and spun into the opposite ditch. The report concludes the vehicle’s path was consistent with Dale’s story.
Questioned later, Port recalled the engine running wide open and the rear end of the pickup coming loose and spinning around into the ditch. According to the report, Port said the restoration was finished two months ago and this was the last ride of the season before storing it for the winter.
Asked what could have caused the engine to run without the pedal being pressed, Donat said it runs on an old engine with new electronic parts, and the electronic fuel injection system could have malfunctioned, causing the engine to run at high RPMs without input from the gas pedal.
The vehicle was towed from the scene, and no criminal citations were issued at the time due to evidence of vehicle malfunction, the report states.