35W reopens after crash at Cliff Road in Burnsville - My29 WFTC Minneapolis-St. Paul

35W reopens after crash at Cliff Road in Burnsville

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A semi failed to slow for stalled traffic in a construction zone on Interstate 35W late Wednesday morning, crashing into three cars and leaving one person seriously injured.

According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the crash happened around 11:15 a.m. on 35W at Cliff Road, just south of a construction zone where workers were inspecting a bridge over the Minnesota River.

"The driver of the semi apparently didn't recognize the fact that traffic was slowing, and he rear ended all three vehicles," State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said a news conference.

As traffic neared the bridge, drivers need to merge around a closed lane, causing a backup in the area. Witnesses, and the truck driver himself, told troopers that he didn't realize traffic was slowing until it was too late.

A Toyota Camry, Chrysler PT Cruiser and Nissan Sentra were the three cars hit by the semi. The 49-year-old driver of the Camry suffered critical injuries.

The other drivers -- identified as 62-year-old Steven Platt, of Cheshire, Mass., and 29-year-old Sara Pillatzki-Warzeha, of Aberdeen, S.D. -- suffered only minor injuries.

A passenger in the Nissan Sentra that was pushed into a guard rail by the force of the crash, 56-year-old Kimberly Gage, of Springfield, Mass., was also treated for minor injuries.

The 47-year-old driver of the semi -- identified by officials as Leon Fortson, of Medford, Minn. -- was not hurt. No citations have been issued at this time.

Roeske said this crash is another example of the need for drivers to anticipate slow or stalled traffic in construction zones.

The interstate was closed for hours as officials investigated the crash, but it was fully reopened to traffic at 4 p.m.

The investigation is still ongoing, and no official cause of the crash has been determined yet -- but it is possible that the trucker did not know about the upcoming lane closure. Still, citations or charges are possible.

State regulations require warning signs about lane closures to be posted about a mile from the lane change, and three more signs must be posted within that mile.

Unfortunately, crashes in or near construction areas are not uncommon. In 2010, a truck driver took his eyes off the road while reaching for an energy drink as he neared a construction zone and crashed, killing two women and an unborn child.

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