Yet another crash has happened on Highway 12 in Independence, and this one has claimed a life. The scenario of the accident was mini van versus cement truck.
Aaron Jaunich, 20, of Delano who was driving the mini van, died at the scene of the Tuesday, Oct. 30, accident in the 6500 block of Highway 12 west of County Road 90. The 45-year-old driver of the cement truck, David Kritzeck of Howard Lake was transported to North Memorial Hospital to treat his non-life threatening injuries.
Blackened grass testifies to the fact that the two vehicles involved burst into flames. As a result of the crash, Highway 12 was closed for approximately four-and-a-half hours.
The West Hennepin Public Safety Department (WHPS) responded to the crash at 3:37 p.m. on Oct. 30, according to Sergeant Gary Kroells.
Preliminary investigation showed that Jaunich’s mini van was westbound on Highway 12 when the vehicle crossed over the centerline, police said. The loaded cement truck traveling eastbound on Highway 12 was unable to avoid the van crossing over into its lane of travel. As a result of the crash, an intense fire started and engulfed the van and cab of the cement truck.
WHPS was assisted at the scene by North Memorial Ambulance and police officers from Medina Police Department (PD), Orono PD, Mound PD, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, State Patrol and Minnetrista PD. Maple Plain Fire Department was assisted by Loretto Fire and Delano Fire.
Aaron Jaunich was a four-year employee of CVS Pharmacy in Delano and a 2010 graduate of Delano High School. In his obituary, relatives described him as “our light, our joy, our ringleader. His easy smile lit up a room.”
As of Saturday, Nov. 3, 105 people had left condolences for the family on the website of a metropolitan newspaper. A memorial Mass was held for Aaron on Saturday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church in Delano. He is survived by his parents, Tom and Jill Jaunich; siblings, Brooke, Bryce, and Lauren; grandparents, Eldoris Jaunich and Bob and Mary Ann Hausladen, as well as many other family members.
WHPS Director Ray McCoy on Wednesday, Oct. 31, said that law enforcement authorities were investigating the reasons for the crash. At that location, drivers had no visibility issues, no construction was taking place in the area, and road conditions were good.
“We don’t know why the person (Aaron) went over the center line,” McCoy said. “We may never know, because he has died. My sympathies are with the family who is grieving today.”
He continued, “This was a very tragic crash scene. It is a grim reminder for all drivers to have full attention on safe driving.” In that location, Highway 12 is a two-lane road. “There’s no room for error.”
On all roadways, and particularly in this location, drivers need to make sure they are not impaired by drugs or alcohol, buckle up, avoid distractions while in the car and drive safely, McCoy said.
He was asked whether any road improvements are in the future for this stretch of Highway 12, and he said he was not expecting any road upgrades any time soon. The old railway bridge on Highway 12 just east of Independence was dangerous and was the scene of a number of accidents. The roadway there was narrow and now is wider because of the new railway bridge and related improvements.
Otherwise, Highway 12 between Maple Plain and Independence is basically the same roadway that McCoy has seen during his entire 29-year career with WHPS. “The only difference is that we have more aggressive law enforcement.”
However, “We can’t be there 24/7,” McCoy said.
Other accidents have happened on Highway 12 between Maple Plain and Delano during the past couple of weeks. On Oct. 26 an accident on Highway 12 near County Road 92 resulted in minor injuries to drivers. On Oct. 24, a crash occurred two blocks west of the accident scene where Aaron Jaunich died. Drivers in the Oct. 24 accident sustained personal injuries.