A Duluth firefighter who was critically injured in a hit-and-run crash while out running received a robust sendoff from his colleagues Monday as he headed to Colorado for extensive physical therapy.
Ray Skoglund, 24, was out for a late-afternoon run on Jan. 25 when he was struck by a minivan. The impact left him with fractures to his limbs, ribs and vertebrae, along with brain and facial injuries, according to the Duluth Fire Department.
Skoglund was moved Monday morning by a medical transportation service from the Essentia Health hospital in Duluth for the trip to Craig Hospital in suburban Denver, where he will undergo inpatient advanced neurological rehabilitative care at the neurorehabilitation center for an undetermined period of time.
Members of the Duluth and Hermantown fire departments, the Duluth Police Department and the Minnesota Air National Guard's 148th Fighter Wing staged a large U.S. flag at Monaco Air at the Duluth International Airport as part of the sendoff. Skoglund previously was a firefighter with the Guard wing and for Hermantown.
Skoglund was sitting up while being transferred from an ambulance and into the waiting airplane.
"We are honored to support the Skoglund family through their darkest hours and look forward to standing by Ray during his continued recovery," said Duluth Fire Chief Shawn Krizaj. "We can't wait to welcome Ray and his family back when he can walk into headquarters and hopefully take his place on 1 Engine."
Mayor Roger Reinert said, "We know the road ahead for him may be long, but if anyone can tackle this marathon, it is Raymond."
The hit-and-run driver, 88-year-old Ronald Myrdahl of Duluth, was booked into jail and charged in St. Louis County District Court with criminal vehicular operation. Court records do not list a defense attorney.
Myrdahl has since been moved to St. Luke's Hospital, where an exam found him to be suffering from "profound dementia" and other ailments, court records disclosed.
Police sent to the 9500 block of Grand Avenue about 5:45 p.m. on Jan. 25 found the critically injured Skoglund, who was hit while running along the shoulder. He was taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital.
A motorist told investigators he saw a minivan behind him on nearby Commonwealth Avenue with no headlights on. The motorist said he tried several times to signal to the van driver that its lights were off.
The van's driver twice strayed onto the shoulder, hit Skoglund and "did not stop, tap the brakes or speed up," the criminal complaint read. The crash occurred after sunset under dark conditions with no ambient light.
A police officer who just finished his shift heard on emergency dispatch about the crash and a description of the vehicle. The officer spotted the van in the parking lot of a grocery store more than 4 miles north of where the crash occurred. The vehicle had extensive front-end damage.
Myrdahl left the store, told the officer that the van was his and "admitted to striking something" while his headlights were off, the complaint said.