A MnDOT worker was hit by a passing car while picking up debris along Interstate 94 in Minneapolis late Sunday, and the driver who struck him shouldn't have been behind the wheel.
According to the Minnesota State Patrol, 61-year-old Kenneth Moreau, of Faribault, Minn., was struck I-94 near 42nd Avenue at about 8 p.m. while he tried to move a mattress off the roadway.
"When he was removing it, it kind of started falling apart," Lt. Eric Roeske explained. "So, he's trying to get it out of the lane when he realized traffic was coming. As he tried to get back on the shoulder, he was struck by a passing vehicle."
Moreau, a 21-year veteran on the job, was taken to North Memorial Medical Center. He remains hospitalized in critical condition, and police say the driver who struck him shouldn't have been on the road in the first place.
Investigators arrested 24-year-old Jared Magnuson of Oakdale, Minn., who pulled over and called 911 after the crash; however, responding officers say he not only did not have a valid license, he was also cited for having an open bottle of alcohol in the vehicle at the time.
"He was not found to be impaired by alcohol, but he was arrested for driving with a canceled license, no insurance, open bottle and careless driving," Roeske said.
Magnuson, who was booked into jail, has a history of alcohol-related arrests -- including 2 convictions for drunk driving and 3 citations for minor consumption -- all of which he incurred before he was 21 years old.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation says each year, drivers are involved in about 15 crashes with MnDOT vehicles; however, this is the first time in 5 years an employee has been struck while outside his truck.
"It really boils down to being aware of your surroundings, paying attention behind the wheel so you see the lights, figure out what is happening and then figure out what you need to do to pass by that scene safely," Roeske stressed.
Yet, the state patrol says Magnuson is not the only one to blame. Although his careless driving critically injured the highway worker, investigators say the crash may never have happened at all if someone had done a better job of tying down the mattress in the first place.
"Anything you're hauling, whether it be a mattress or any cargo in the back of a truck or trailer, it's critical that those things are secured," Roeske said. "This whole thing could have been avoided by that mattress no being in the lane."
According to the state patrol, mattresses in the roadway are an all-too-common problem that often result in accidents, even car fires after the fabric gets stuck underneath. A few years ago, a motorcyclist was seriously injured after hitting a mattress and losing control.
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