Two workers die in Minnesota work site crash

Workers killed
Two workers are dead after a car struck their construction site near I-35W in Burnsville around 12:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011. A third worker in the group was not injured.
Photo courtesy of KSTP/Mitch Pittman

A car struck and fatally injured two workers at a construction site along I-35W in Burnsville Thursday afternoon.

The two workers were hit when a 21-year-old driver lost control of his car and the vehicle spun into a ditch, said State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske.

Craig Carlson, 47, of Ramsey, died at the scene. Ronald Rajkowski, 44, of St. Joseph, was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center, where he later died. A third worker in the group was not injured.

The men worked for Brooklyn Park-based contractor Egan Company, the Associated Press reports. The workers were at the site to help build a new MN PASS lane.

The State Patrol incident report said the driver of the Mitsubishi 3000GT that hit the workers was in the left lane and had slowed down as he approached the construction area. The "driver felt he was too close to the construction wall," the report said.

Despite the construction, the speed limit was 70 mph, Roeske said.

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The driver told officials he braked and turned right too sharply, and then turned left and then right again to try to maintain control of the car. The car spun out in the ditch on the right side of the road and struck the workers.

Officials said they have not determined whether the driver was speeding, but Roeske said, "there was no information from witnesses that would indicate it was excessive."

Roeske said there were no weather or road conditions that would've led to a crash, "but it certainly highlights the importance to pay attention and drive with extra caution in construction zones."

The driver's car is registered in Missouri. The driver, who was not injured, has been cooperating with officials and has not been arrested or charged in connection with the accident, the State Patrol said.

Prior to Thursday's accident, the last worker killed in a work zone in Minnesota was Mike Struck, who was clearing debris from a creek culvert on March 22, 2011 when his backhoe tipped and he fell into floodwaters between Mankato and St. Peter.

At an annual memorial service this April, state officials said 46 workers have died since 1960 while performing construction or maintenance work for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. The number includes 33 state highway workers and 13 contract workers.

MnDOT says most crashes in work zones are not fatal and result in injuries to motorists, not workers.

The number of deaths and crashes in work zones has fluctuated over the years. MnDOT provided the following statistics.

The numbers do not include accidents, like the one that killed Struck, that did not include any non-work-related motor vehicles.

MPR News added the two deaths from Thursday's crash.

2005: 6 fatalities, 2,041 crashes

2006: 10 fatalities, 1,653 crashes

2007: 16 fatalities, 1,728 crashes

2008: 5 fatalities, 1,480 crashes

2009: 13 fatalities, 1,788 crashes

2010: 11 fatalities, 1,915 crashes

2011: 6 fatalities, 710 crashes