A Wisconsin man is facing double vehicular homicide charges in an alleged negligent driving incident that killed two Minnesotans on July 19, 2019.
Justin James Helgeson, 27, of Coon Valley, Wisconsin, is being charged with four criminal counts in Wilkin County, Minnesota.
He is being charged with two felonies for criminal vehicular homicide in which he was operating his vehicle in a grossly negligent manner. Helgeson is also facing charges for careless driving, a misdemeanor, and failing to stop at a stop sign, a misdemeanor. No alcohol was involved, the state patrol reported.
Authorities say Helgeson was driving a Ford F250 traveling eastbound on Wilkin County Road 30 in rural Barnesville. Simultaneously, Margaret Mary O’Neill, 62, of Moorhead, Minnesota, the driver of a 2011 Subaru Forester, and her passenger, Thomas Andrew Burton, 62, also of Moorhead, traveling southbound approached the intersection on Highway 9.
A law enforcement investigation claims that the two vehicles approached the intersection at the same time and the Helgeson did not stop or even slow at the stop sign. A criminal complaint states that there were no tire marks that would indicate that he attempted to forestall the crash.
Minnesota troopers inferred that the Subaru attempted to avoid the F250 by steering into the northbound lane. Allegedly, as the F250 passed through the intersection, it struck the right passenger side of the Subaru in the northbound lane of Minnesota Highway 9.
Both vehicles rotated together in a counter-clockwise motion, each barrel-rolling multiple times before separating and then falling into a ditch, the court document states.
Helgeson stated to the troopers he was driving from Bismarck, North Dakota heading to Wisconsin and had just made a phone call. The report states that he had his cruise control set, but did not know the road he was traveling on or its speed limit.
The passenger of the Subaru, Burton, was announced dead at the scene. The autopsy reported multiple contusions abrasions, lacerations, fractures and hemorrhages internally and externally.
The driver, O’Neil, was pronounced dead at Sanford Hospital in Fargo less than two hours after the accident. Her death was claimed to have been caused by multiple blunt force injuries due to the car accident.
A state trooper determined that weather, road conditions, visibility and vehicle malfunction did not contribute to the crash. The trooper said Helgeson’s possible distraction by his cell phone may have contributed to the crash. Additionally, the trooper concluded that his failure to stop at the stop sign and failure to yield the right of way at the controlled intersection were the primary causes of the accident.
Helgeson had his first appearance before the Wilkin County District Court Judge Charles Glasrud in February. He will appear for an omnibus hearing on Tuesday, June 30.