LAKEVILLE, MN – A multi vehicle truck accident occurred on Monday morning, May 24, 2010, releasing thousands of honey bees on a highway in Dakota County, Minnesota, about 25 miles south of the Minneapolis-St Paul metro region. A semi trailer truck was transporting the bees, traveling on Interstate 35 when it was involved in an accident near the city of Lakeville, MN. The accident area is in the southeast section of the state, 39 miles west of Red Wing, MN and about 112 miles north of Clear Lake, Iowa.
Darren Straus, 37 years old of Fertile, MN, was driving a semi flatbed truck Monday morning north on I-35, carrying a cargo of honey bees from Mississippi, where they spent the winter, up to North Dakota for the summer. The bees are owned by Bauer Honey, Inc., based in Fertile, MN, and the truck was carrying hives on the flatbed trailer. The hives were holding about 17 million honey bees at the time.
As the bee transport truck traveled near Lakeville it came upon a construction zone on the interstate. The flatbed semi truck slowed down as did the two passenger cars behind it, a Lumina driven by 50 year old Pamela Brinkhaus of Elko, MN and a Bonneville driven by 24 year old Kari Rasmussen of St. Anthony, MN.
Another semi truck was behind the Bonneville and apparently was unable to slow down to avoid a collision. The 18 wheeler, driven by 36 year old Jason Styrbicky of Buffalo MN, slammed into the back of the Bonneville, setting off a chain reaction accident. The Bonneville crashed into the Lumina which rear-ended the Bauer semi trailer.
The multi vehicle crash left the two cars demolished between the two 18 wheelers and the impact of the truck accident knocked several beehives off the flatbed of the Bauer truck, where they fell onto the highway and broke open. A second bee transport flatbed truck pulled over at the site of the truck accident. It’s not known if the second honey bee truck also belonged to Bauer, Inc.
When the semi trailer transporting the beehives crashed the impact of the collision set loose thousands of bees into the air. Firefighters and emergency personnel from Lakeville who responded to the scene of the truck accident found that they had to fight through thick clouds of honey bees to reach the victims and the swarms around the truck accident scene proved to be a challenge for the rescue workers.
The Fire Chief of Lakeville, Chief Scott Nelson, was stung several times when he first arrived at the collision site. He instructed the other firefighters to use full gear including face masks for protection. The fire teams used water hoses on the bees to break through the swarms and reached the wreckage of the collision.
When the EMTs finally reached the victims they found that Ms. Brinkhaus, the driver of the Lumina, had suffered fatal injuries in the truck accident and she was pronounced dead at the scene. The driver of the Bonneville, Ms. Rasmussen, was extricated from her car and then transported by medical helicopter to North Memorial Medical Center in nearby Robinson. Unfortunately, her injuries were serious and she died sometime Monday evening.
The two truck drivers were reportedly not injured in the crash.
Firefighters would continue to battle the hordes of honey bees with the fire hoses on the advice of Dale Bauer who owned the beehives and trucks. According to Mr. Bauer the water would likely kill many of the bees but it was the only action the firefighters could take to keep the bees from swarming and stinging the workers.
A local honey producer based in Winthrop, MN sent a truck and the remaining beehives were transferred from the Bauer truck and taken to Winthrop for safekeeping at around 5:00 p.m.
Minnesota State Patrol shut down northbound lanes in a section of I-35 between County Road 70 to County Road 2, backing up traffic for about 5 miles. The interstate finally reopened at around 7:00 p.m. Monday evening.
At this time no charges have been brought and the truck accident remains under investigation.
For more information about Minnesota trucking laws, truck injury causes and victims rights, contact nationwide truck accident lawyers Gordon, Elias & Seely, LLP for expert advice. For a free initial consultation, talk to a MN truck accident lawyer at 800.773.6770.