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Fatal crash, numerous power outages near Worthington caused by Wednesday night storm

Downed power lines over Interstate 90 led to multi-vehicle crash.

Straight line winds snapped wooden power poles crossing Interstate I-90, just east of Worthington. The downed lines caused a multi-vehicle crash just before 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Straight line winds snapped wooden power poles crossing Interstate I-90, just east of Worthington. The downed lines caused a multi-vehicle crash just before 6 p.m. Wednesday.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON — One person died and four others were injured Wednesday evening after high winds toppled power lines over Interstate 90, just east of Minnesota 60. The multi-vehicle crash included one vehicle being rear-ended by a semi tractor-trailer before getting entangled in the power lines, and another vehicle also getting caught in the wires. All of the vehicles were eastbound in mile 46.

The crash was reported to law enforcement at 5:54 p.m. Wednesday — just 11 minutes after the Worthington Regional Airport clocked its highest wind gust of the evening at 63 miles per hour, according to Phil Schumacher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service at Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Killed in the crash was Martha Lilian Llanos Rodriguez, 30, of Mexico City, Mexico. She was a backseat passenger in a 2021 Chevrolet hatchback driven by Diego Alvaro Campos, 37, of Chile. According to the Minnesota State Patrol, Campos had stopped to avoid the downed power lines when his vehicle was struck by a 2019 Freightliner Cascadia driven by Jaskaran Singh, 26, of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Campos and passenger Aldo Alberto Viscarra-Avilez, 33, of Chile, sustained non-life threatening injuries, while passenger Bradford Scott Barrett, 42, of Annapolis, Maryland, had life-threatening injuries. All three of the individuals were transported to Sanford Worthington Medical Center. Campos and Rodriguez were wearing seatbelts; Barrett was not, and Viscarra-Avilez’s seatbelt status is unknown. Airbags in the vehicle did deploy.

Tyler Scott Gilbery, 23, of Tea, South Dakota, was the driver of a 2009 Pontiac G6 that collided with the power lines. He sustained non-life-threatening injuries and was transported to Sanford Worthington Medical Center. It was unknown if he was wearing a seatbelt.

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Singh, the semi driver, was not injured.

Assisting the Minnesota State Patrol at the scene were the Nobles County Sheriff’s Office, Worthington Police Department, Worthington Fire Department and Sanford Worthington Ambulance.

Interstate temporarily closed

With the downed power lines covering both east- and westbound lanes of Interstate 90, law enforcement personnel closed both lanes of travel for two and a half hours, according to Worthington Fire Chief Pat Shorter.

Straight line winds snapped power poles along Interstate I-90, just east of Worthington this evening, causing a multi-car crash with injuries.
Straight line winds snapped power poles along Interstate I-90, just east of Worthington Wednesday evening, leading to a multi-car crash and one fatality.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

Shorter was among a crew of 15 from the department who responded to the scene. They stayed back until it was confirmed the power lines were properly de-energized by crews from Nobles Cooperative Electric. The power poles are owned by Great River Energy.

Both Campos and Viscarra-Avilez were outside of their vehicle and walking, albeit injured, when first responders arrived. After assessing the individuals in the Chevy, Shorter said they extricated Barrett, who was the front-seat passenger and the most critical. Barrett was the first to be transported to the hospital, followed by Campos and Viscarra-Avilez. Gilbery was the last of the injured to be taken to the hospital.

Lori Buffington, spokesperson for Great River Energy, said their crews were immediately dispatched to the scene to clear the power lines from the interstate highway.

“The storm damaged 28 poles on our transmission lines in the area,” Buffington said Thursday. “Our crews are now at work cleaning up the downed lines and have begun restoration. We expect the repairs to be completed within the next couple of weeks.

“Great River Energy expresses our sympathy for the loss of life and injuries that occurred as a result of the accident on I-90,” she added.

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Power disruptions

In addition to the high wind gusts, Schumacher said 1.33 inches of rain was recorded by the Worthington water treatment plant. But it was the wind that caused the most trouble.

Residents on the east half of Worthington were without power for approximately 20 minutes Wednesday evening when the downed power lines disrupted transmission to the city’s No. 2 substation, according to Pat Demuth, Worthington Public Utilities electric superintendent. Included in the outage was the JBS pork processing plant, where second shift employees were in the dark until power was restored.

Demuth said the WPU obtained permission to switch the power supply fairly quickly.

Buffington, meanwhile, said Great River Energy was able to get power restored to all substations it serves by approximately 1:30 a.m. Thursday.

Both Nobles Cooperative Electric and Federated Rural Electric also had customers without power for a while Wednesday evening.

Tracey Haberman, member services manager at Nobles Cooperative Electric, reported six downed power poles in Seward Township, one in Graham Lakes Township, and 22 Great River Energy power poles down in the NCE service territory.

The downed power lines resulted in a disruption of electrical service to approximately 1,300 of NCE’s members.

“It began shortly after 5 p.m., and the majority were all back on by 10 p.m.,” Haberman said Thursday morning. “We still have a few accounts by I-90 that are not back on, and we’re working on how to get them back up and running.”

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NCE linemen were out on Thursday to frame and set new power poles where the seven had come down.

Federated Rural Electric reported Thursday morning that 1,133 of its members in southern Jackson County lost power at approximately 6:30 p.m. Wednesday. Most lost power due to the transmission line outage owned by Great River Energy.

Crews were able to restore power to the Miloma and West Lakefield substations at 6:40 p.m., with the Round Lake substation restored at 7:44 p.m., and members served by the Minneota substation had their power restored at 7:47 p.m.

“Federated lost 10 three-phase overhead poles in this storm — all in the same area,” stated George Madden, Federated’s operations manager. “The downed poles were all along 460th Avenue, just north of Jackson County 4; the adjacent farm place also had bin and machine shed damage spread out in a path in that field. Crews made temporary repairs last night with all power restored around 11:30 p.m.”

Madden said crews were out Thursday to replace the poles snapped off by the strong winds.

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Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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