2nd person dies as a result of County 34 crash

Published 11:51 pm Thursday, July 3, 2008

The funeral for Kelly Jo Abrego will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Trinity Lutheran Church. Arrangements were made by Bonnerup Funeral Home.
Funeral arrangements are pending for Kelly John Pechumer at Bayview/Freeborn Funeral Home.

A second person who was a passenger in the car wreck this past weekend on County Road 34 died Thursday as a result of injuries sustained from the crash.

Kelly John Pechumer, 37, of Alden, who had been in critical condition since the wreck, died late Thursday afternoon. This brings the death toll on County Road 34 to three since heavy rains caused flooding June 11 and 12 that washed out the roadway.

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Kelly Jo Abrego, 25, who was also a passenger in the crash, died Monday.

The incident occurred when a 2003 Chevrolet Avalanche sport-utility truck — a cross between a sport-utility vehicle and a pickup — carrying six people went into the washed out area of the road, landed on top of a steel culvert and crashed into the southside portion of the washout.

First responder Alex Kline from the London Fire Department also received minor injuries after his 2001 Chevy Silverado pickup dropped into the washed out portion of the road while responding to the initial wreck.

Thus far, passengers Nathan Buchli and Langdon Bachtle, along with driver Charles Kenneth Dennison have been released from the hospital, and passenger Broc Dempewolf still remains in fair condition.

The Freeborn County Sheriff’s Office, along with other state agencies, are continuing the investigation into the wreck.

Freeborn County Sheriff Mark Harig said investigators are busy interviewing those involved with the crash to find out more about what happened that night.

He wasn’t sure which of the passengers have been interviewed yet, and which have not. Regardless, he said, any information about those interviews would not be able to be released until the investigation is completed and the information has been reviewed by the Freeborn County attorney.

Harig said investigators have sent the computer box from the 2003 Chevrolet Avalanche involved in the wreck to be analyzed, Harig said. The Minnesota State Patrol analyzes the box and then generates a 10-page report based on the findings.

From the box should come information on the vehicle speed and braking, along with whether the individuals inside were wearing seat belts, he said.

This will be helpful because there were no skid marks left on the road after the wreck, he said. The findings should be available in a week to 10 days.

Also, any time there is a wreck where there’s a serious injury or death, it is mandatory to draw blood from the driver of that vehicle to determine if alcohol was involved, Harig said. The results of the blood test will probably take three weeks or maybe more to come back.

“It’s a process we can’t hurry,” Harig said. “There’s nothing we can do to expedite it.”

The same is true of repairing the culvert in the area of the road that is washed out, he said. The reconstruction of the road is under strict guidelines of FEMA, and on July 8 local leaders will met with FEMA officials at 10 a.m. to determine if the plans for redevelopment are approved.

Until then, all officials can do is block the road, he said.

Between County 19 and 21 on County 34 — where it passes over a drainage ditch — is where the road experienced a washout as the result of heavy rain on June 11 and 12. A large section of the roadway is completely missing, and the culvert is exposed. The drainage ditch eventually flows into Orchard Creek in Mower County.

Officials had blocked the road according to guidelines after the first car wreck that killed Dale Wangen of rural Albert Lea on the early morning hours on June 12, and now the road will continue to be blocked until reconstruction is completed.