By Ryan Gueningsman
DELANO, MN A 20-year-old Delano man lost his life Tuesday afternoon at about 3:45 p.m. as the result of a traffic crash on Highway 12 in Independence.
Aaron Thomas Jaunich, 20, was driving a minivan westbound on Highway 12, just west of Hennepin County Road 90, when the vehicle crossed over the centerline, according to West Hennepin Public Safety (WHPS).
A loaded Cemstone cement truck, being driven by David Kritzeck, 45, of Howard Lake, was traveling eastbound on Highway 12, was unable to avoid the van crossing over into its lane of travel, and struck the minivan.
Responding officers found a fire had resulted from the crash and engulfed the van and the cab of the cement truck. The fire also started an adjacent grass fire, which was extinguished, according to WHPS Director Ray McCoy.
Jaunich died at the scene.
Kritzeck was transported to North Memorial Hospital for non-life-threatning injuries, according to WHPS.
In addition to WHPS, officers from Orono, Medina, Mound, and Minnetrista police departments and Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office responded, along with firefighters and first responders from Delano, Maple Plain, Loretto, and Long Lake.
North Memorial Ambulance Service and the Hennepin County Medical Examiner were also on scene.
The Minnesota State Patrol reconstruction unit is investigating the crash.
This is the fourth personal-injury crash in this stretch of Highway 12 in the last several weeks, and is the first fatality.
Jaunich was a 2010 graduate of Delano High School and the son of Thomas and Jill (Hausladen) Jaunich. He worked at CVS Pharmacy for four years.
CVS Pharmacy store manager Dale Russenberger described Jaunich as “kind of quiet, but always smiling.”
“He was just a soft-spoken, very polite person,” Russenberger said. “He was very good with customers.”
Russenberger said Jaunich had been working at the store every other weekend. Some of Jaunich’s college classload was shifting to online work, so Jaunich was looking to pick up additional shifts at other local CVS stores, Russenberger added.
“With his fellow employees, he was always open to switching hours and changing things up to help anyone out as fun activities came up for the younger crowd,” Russenberger said.