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SW Minnesota has a deadly weekend

WORTHINGTON -- Preliminary crash reports through the Minnesota Department of Public Safety indicate four people were killed during the Memorial Day weekend in vehicle crashes or as the result of a crash.

Three of those deaths were in southwest Minnesota.

On Saturday morning, 32-year-old Amanda Vis of Edgerton lost control of her vehicle and drove off the side of the road at approximately 6:13 a.m. in rural Rock County.

The vehicle overturned and she was ejected. She was not wearing her seatbelt, and according to the DPS, alcohol was a factor. Vis died Monday in a Sioux Falls, S.D., hospital.

Brian Engelkes and his wife Michelle accounted for two more of the deaths. From Sheldon, Iowa, the two were on a motorcycle in rural Jackson County at about 6: 36 p.m. when their 2011 Harley Davidson entered a ditch and struck a driveway embankment.

Neither were wearing helmets and both were ejected from the motorcycle.

They were both taken via ambulance to a hospital in Spirit Lake, Iowa, then airlifted to Sioux Falls, S.D. Michelle, 38, died of her injuries Monday, and her husband Brian, 35, died Wednesday morning.

An 80-year-old woman was killed in a crash in Pope County at 11 a.m. Monday.

The deaths pushed the annual traffic fatality count above the 100-death milestone.

There have been 103 deaths this year, as compared to 108 at this time in 2011.

Motorcycle deaths are at 13 for the year, as compared to five at this time last year.

Jackson County Sheriff Roger Hawkinson said fatal crashes can happen anywhere, but tend to be bigger news in rural communities.

"No one will ever know what caused that (motorcycle) crash," he said. "I think a lot of crashes come from driver distraction."

As to why there were four deaths in southwest Minnesota in a number of days, Hawkinson attributes it to the amount of travel during a busy holiday weekend.

"People need to slow down and pay attention," he said.

The Click it or Ticket seatbelt campaign continues in Minnesota and nationwide through June 3.

Unbelted motorists have represented a significant amount of Minnesota's traffic fatalities during 2009 through 2011, with teens, young adults and motorists from Greater Minnesota as the main victims. In that two-year time period, 878 motorists died, with 43 percent not buckled up. Eighty percent of the unbelted deaths occurred outside the seven-county Twin Cities area.