Two people died and a juvenile was seriously injured in a two-vehicle crash Wednesday afternoon near the intersection of County Highway 21 and Natchez Avenue in Credit River Township, according to the Scott County Sheriff’s Office.
A Toyota Corolla was traveling eastbound around noon on April 1 on 21 when it struck a freight truck turning south onto Natchez from the westbound turn lane, a county news release said.
The driver and another passenger of the Toyota were declared dead at the scene. A juvenile male in the backseat of the vehicle was transported by ambulance to Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis.
The Scott County Sheriff’s Office identified the driver of the freight truck as a 28-year-old Maplewood man who was uninjured and declined medical attention.
According to the release, the sheriff’s office, Minnesota State Patrol and Hennepin County Medical Examiner’s Office are investigating and have not yet determined if alcohol or drugs were involved.
“This is a tragic incident, and our thoughts are with the friends and family of the victims,” Sheriff Luke Hennen said in a statement.
Prior Lake Police, the Prior Lake Fire Department, Allina Ambulance Service and the Minnesota State Patrol also responded to the crash.
The collision came about a year after another deadly accident at the same intersection. In February 2019, 14-year-old Samuel Foltz of Prior Lake died after his father’s vehicle was struck by a driver who failed to stop at Natchez’s stop sign and drove onto 21.
The county highway, also called Eagle Creek Avenue and 185th Street, slopes away from Natchez in both directions, which neighbors say makes fast, oncoming traffic harder to see in time to avoid it.
The county has looked into some alternatives for the intersection, such as adding median turn lanes on 21 to reduce traffic conflicts, and held an open house last fall to hear from locals. Several nearby residents have said they’d prefer stoplights or a roundabout to slow down drivers on 21.
“Once they get off that freeway, they’re flying,” resident Connie Lehrmann said Wednesday shortly after the crash, adding accidents there have become routine. She called on the county to make the area safer and favored the stoplight option.
“It’s getting really scary,” she said. “People around here are really getting upset at the tragedies.”
Scott County engineer Tony Winiecki on Thursday said he shares neighbors’ concerns, and this week’s crash followed the same pattern as other collisions.
The county has put in more speed limit signs and ordered two of the type that flash drivers’ speeds as they approach, which could be placed there at least temporarily, he added. But he said the intersection’s issues have no single solution; some possible design changes could actually increase crashes, for example.
Smaller steps might include putting in signals or flashing lights to tell Natchez drivers that traffic on 21 is on the way, but 21’s traffic volume is so high that it might not be helpful, Winiecki said. He and other staff plan to keep looking at their options and weighing their consequences.
“We haven’t reached that decision yet,” he said.
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly described some of Connie Lehrmann’s comments; it has been updated.