Investigators are weighing whether a semitrailer truck driver suspected of running a stop sign in central Minnesota and hitting a pregnant woman's car can be held legally responsible for two deaths.
Casey R. Myers, 30, of nearby Holdingford, died following the crash shortly before 8 a.m. Monday at a rural intersection near Sartell, according to the Stearns County Sheriff's Office.
Myers was five months pregnant at the time of the crash. What would have been her second child did not survive, the Sheriff's Office said.
Chief Sheriff's Deputy Jon Lentz said Tuesday that "we've had a discussion internally with our crash [investigators] with how we code this, either a single or a double fatality."
Once the case is forwarded to the County Attorney's Office, "that could end up being a question for prosecutors" to settle, Lentz said.
The driver of the semi, Corey William Planck, 46, of Star City, Ind., told authorities he didn't see the stop sign.
Lentz said that "had there been some indication of alcohol or drug use," Planck would have been arrested. He was not injured, and was free to go, Lentz said.
"This is going to require further investigation to see if any other factors come into play," such as distracted driving, the chief deputy said.
If the truck driver is charged at the felony level in connection with the crash, Minnesota law allows for there to be one count filed for Myers' death and one count for her unborn child's death, said former Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, who now works in private practice.
"Minnesota law treats the death of the unborn child just as seriously as the pregnant woman," Gaertner said.
Gaertner added that state law also "doesn't define a term the unborn child needs to reach" before the death in a crash can lead to a felony count.
Also, if a driver is charged with a gross misdemeanor or misdemeanor and convicted in a crash that kills a woman and her unborn child, "no judge is going to ignore how many lives were lost as a result of reckless driving. I assume it would be factor in what sentence to impose."
Husband is teacher, coach
Myers' death hit hard in the Holdingford School District, where Myers' husband, Matthew Myers, is a junior high math teacher and varsity boys basketball coach.
"This is very much a family type setting," said Superintendent Chris Swenson, whose district serves slightly less than 1,100 students.
"Words can't sum up how heartbroken we are around here. Casey is the sweetest, kindest person we've ever met."
Swenson said counselors and clergy are being made available through the rest of the week for teachers, other employees and students.
Holdingford's home basketball game scheduled for Thursday vs. Milaca has been postponed.
"We talked to the team last night and focused on priorities [and] paying attention to them," Swenson said.
Driver is still working
Planck, employed by Haselby Trucking in Royal Center, Ind., was driving northeast on County Road 133 toward Sartell. Myers was heading southeast on County Road 4 toward St. Cloud, stopped at a stop sign and entered the intersection when Planck struck her vehicle on the passenger side.
Company owner Mark Haselby said Tuesday afternoon that Planck has "never had a problem" as far as safety is concerned in his nine years of driving for him. Haselby said Planck continues to drive for the company.
Court records available online show two driving convictions for Planck, one for traveling 69 miles per hour in a 55 mph zone in 2012 and the other for following another motorist too closely in 2009.
Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482