By Ryan Gueningsman
INDEPENDENCE, MN Details have been released by western Hennepin County authorities about a head-on collision in Independence Tuesday morning that killed four people.
The crash involved a Chevy Suburban and a tandem-axle dump truck on Hennepin County Road 6 near Game Farm Road.
The preliminary investigation indicates that an eastbound Suburban crossed into the westbound lane and collided head-on with a dump truck, according to West Hennepin Public Safety (WHPS).
The driver of the Suburban, his passenger, and the two children in the Suburban have been identified by authorities.
The driver was Starrett Delano Jensen, 30, of Minneapolis, and his daughters, Sofia Diamond Jensen, 3, and Starriana Destiny Jensen, 5. Starrett and Starriana died at the scene of the crash.
Sofia was airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center by North Memorial Air Care and died at the hospital at 10:20 a.m. The fourth victim was identified as Louise Riley Redding, aka Louise Riley, 64, of St. Mary, Jamaica.
Starrett Jensen and Redding were seatbelted, however no child car seats were found in the vehicle.
The dump truck driver and passenger were not injured.
Upon the officer’s arrival at the crash scene, bullet holes were observed in the rear gate of the Suburban, according to WHPS.
After a thorough investigation by WHPS and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department, it was determined that the bullet holes had nothing to do with the causation of the crash.
“There were no weapons or bullets recovered from the scene,” said West Hennepin Public Safety Director Ray McCoy.
Information was also obtained by western Hennepin County authorities from the Meeker County Sheriff’s Office that a deputy had made a traffic stop on the same Suburban in Litchfield the morning of the accident.
Meeker County Sheriff Jeff Norlin said Meeker County Dispatch received a transferred cell phone 911-call from Kandiyohi authorities at 7:28 a.m. Tuesday morning. The caller reported a vehicle driving erratically, that it had passed four cars at one time, was driving on the shoulder, and was driving at high rates of speed.
Norlin said the Minnesota State Patrol didn’t have a trooper in the area to watch for the vehicle, so the driving complaint was passed on to Meeker County deputies. Several minutes later, Norlin said, a deputy located the vehicle in Litchfield, but was unable to observe any poor driving conduct.
“The deputy didn’t have any driving conduct, but stopped to investigate anyway,” Norlin said.
Upon making contact with the driver of the vehicle, identified as Starrett Jensen, in Litchfield on Highway 22 (Sibley Avenue/Darwin Street), the driver told the deputy he was looking for Interstate 494, and said his mother had to catch an airplane to Jamaica, Norlin said.
At the time of the deputy’s contact with the vehicle, there were three people observed in the Suburban the male driver, a woman, whom the deputy did not identify, and a female child, who the driver indicated was his daughter.
“The only thing he had of an offense with the vehicle was that the young child was not buckled in,” Norlin said. “The driver and the adult female in the front seat were buckled in at that time.”
Norlin said the deputy told the driver the child had to be buckled properly, and, when tested, the strap fit the child properly. A verbal warning was issued to the driver, and the driver was told he should probably have a booster seat for the child.
The only other observations noted by the officer was that the vehicle was recently purchased and had a 21-day temporary permit on the vehicle. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, McCoy indicated the vehicle was not stolen.
Norlin said his agency has had no other contact with the driver of the vehicle. Norlin’s office passed on its report from the traffic stop to West Hennepin County Public Safety and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office.
“We passed on our observations and the conversations that took place,” Norlin said.
The bullet holes were observed by the Meeker County deputy, and Norlin said the deputy did inquire into that, but referred questions regarding that to West Hennepin Public Safety.
The Minnesota State Patrol Crash Reconstruction Unit and Hennepin County Crime Lab responded to assist WHPS at the scene.
At the scene of the accident, WHPS was also assisted by Maple Plain Fire/Rescue, Orono, Medina, Mound, and Minnetrista Police Departments and the Minnesota State Patrol Helicopter at the scene of the crash.
Hennepin County Road 6 was closed between County Road 90 and County Road 92 and traffic was diverted for approximately eight hours Tuesday.
WHPS is continuing the investigation of the crash with the aid of the Minnesota State Patrol Crash Reconstruction Unit and the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Department.