GRAND FORKS -- A midday crash in Grand Forks' downtown resulted in two deaths and three injuries.
The accident occurred at approximately 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 9, at the corner of DeMers Avenue and North Fifth Street. According to the Grand Forks Police Department, a 2011 Buick Regal was traveling westbound on DeMers in the center turn lane, at a high rate of speed. The Regal struck a Chevrolet Impala, causing minor damage, and then struck a Ford Explorer as it was attempting a left turn from Demers Avenue to go south on Fifth. The Regal glanced off the Explorer and then hit an eastbound Dodge Caravan van. The Regal then rolled over onto its top.
The driver and front passenger of the Caravan died, and a rear passenger was injured and taken to Altru Hospital. The driver and a passenger in the Regal also were injured and transported to the hospital. Their condition, according to a GFPD release, is not known at this time.
In a phone call just before 4 p.m., Sgt. Kevin Kallinen of the Grand Forks Police Department confirmed the deaths and the number of injured people. The names of the victims were not released, pending notification of family members.
Renee Volker, who witnessed the accident, said she and a man helped an injured teen passenger from the Caravan. They moved to a safe distance from the vehicle because she was concerned it could catch fire.
“She was bleeding in the mouth and her legs had lacerations,” Volker told the Herald. “Thank God she had her seatbelt on.”
Volker and another passerby covered the teen with their coats. Another person, she said, came by with a blanket. Volker remained on scene until authorities arrived.
When asked for information shortly after the accident, a Grand Forks Sheriff’s Office deputy responded: “It’s a sad day.”
Law enforcement officers quickly established a perimeter around the intersection, and directed traffic through nearby streets. The intersection was closed for nearly a block in each direction. Multiple vehicles from the Grand Forks Police Department and Sheriff's Office were at the scene, as were trucks from the Grand Forks Fire Department. An ambulance from Altru also responded.
Shortly after 2 p.m. a three-member group from the Northeast Regional UAS Team used a drone to take aerial footage of the accident scene.
By 2:30 p.m. firefighters had erected a barricade around the minivan, and appeared to be using the jaws of life to force open the driver's side door of the vehicle.
According to Kallinen, the situation was a “mess” when he arrived on the scene. Further details of the accident will be forthcoming, he said, and the crash remains under investigation by the GFPD Crash Accident Response Team and detectives from the Criminal Investigations Bureau.
It is believed to be the first traffic fatality in downtown Grand Forks in a little more than two years. In the early morning hours of Aug. 2, 2018, the driver of a car died when he crashed into a tree on the 200 block of Belmont Road. He had moments earlier evaded police after an attempted traffic stop.