UPDATED: Six killed in head-on crash near Cambridge, Minn.Patrol: Teen driver in crash that killed 6 was violating license rules
MINNEAPOLIS — A fiery head-on crash early Sunday west of Cambridge killed four young people in a car that smelled of alcohol and also left dead two occupants in a charred SUV, the Minnesota State Patrol said.
The car’s driver, a 16-year-old girl who got her license less than three weeks ago, was hospitalized in serious condition at Hennepin County Medical Center, the Patrol said.
Capt. Matt Langer of the Minnesota State Patrol said Sunday afternoon the girl could face criminal charges. The patrol declined to release her name, citing her age.
Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said the law forbids drivers that young to be on the road past midnight. It also was illegal for her to have that many other people that young in her vehicle, Roeske said.
An “odor of alcohol” coming from the teenager’s car was detected by authorities, Roeske said, but “we can’t confirm who it is connected to. That is still under investigation.”
This brings to 11 the number of people killed in car crashes since last Monday in Minnesota involving teen drivers. Last Monday, an 18-year-old died when his car rolled over in Winona County near Lewiston. On Friday, three girls were killed in a rollover that occurred in the same county. On Saturday, a 16-year-old female driver died in a collision in Mille Lacs County.
In Sunday’s crash, according to the patrol, a 1998 Pontiac Grand Am driven by the 16-year-old girl was heading west on two-lane Highway 95 about 2:40 a.m. with four passengers when it collided head-on with an eastbound 2000 Olds Bravada.
Three backseat passengers in the Grand Am were not wearing their seat belts and the fourth, a 21-year-old man in the front seat, probably was unbelted, Roeske said. The Grand Am’s driver has told investigators she was belted in.
The Bravada caught fire, severely burning the two people who died in that vehicle, Roeske said.
The identities of the four people killed in the car were released Sunday afternoon by the State Patrol. They are Travis K. Buchan, 17, of Cambridge; Kelsee L. Blackledge, 15, no hometown listed; Travis A. Gryczkowski, 21, of Cambridge; and Stephen T. Kendryna, 16, of Cambridge.
Dead in the Bravada is the 24-year-old driver and his lone passenger, whose gender, age and hometown were not immediately available. Those identities were not expected until later in the week, once positive identification is made by the medical examiner, the patrol said.
The impact of the crash left the SUV “completely burned up,” Roeske said.
Roeske said the crash happened “right on the yellow center line. They met in the middle somehow.” The road was wet at the time, the patrol said.
Roeske said a crash reconstruction investigators called it “the worst he’s ever seen in his life. It was unbelievable.”
The 16-year-old driving the Grand Am received her license on April 8. That means, according to Roeske, that “she shouldn’t have been driving [at all] after midnight.” It also was another violation to have “all those kids in the car,” he said.
Under Minnesota’s laws governing minors as drivers:
•For the first six months of licensure, driving is banned from midnight to 5 a.m. Exceptions include if they are accompanied by a licensed driver 25 or older, are heading to work or driving for employment purposes, or if they are heading to a school event and the school has not provided transportation.
•Also during those first six months, only one passenger younger than 20 is permitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. For the second six months, the limit on passengers younger than 20 rises to three.
Exceptions are made for passengers younger than 20 who are immediate family members.