In a joint news conference on Monday, Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand and Winona County Attorney Karin Sonneman said that no criminal charges will be filed as a result of the January 5 Mississippi River SUV crash that killed four people; additionally, new details were released that seem to make the events of the night more clear.
“Based on the review of the investigatory information submitted and referred by law enforcement for review for possible criminal charges, the Winona County Attorney’s Office has determined that no criminal charges will be brought in this case,” Sonneman read from a prepared statement.
The accident occurred in the early morning hours of January 5, 2014, when the driver of the SUV, Christina Lee Hauser, 36, of Winona, went over the guardrail at the curve of Riverview Drive and Huff Street, then plunged into the Mississippi River. Hauser, along with Matthew Patrick Erickson, 29, of Chatfield; Blake Erik Overland, 28, who had recently moved to Winona from Stewartville; and Andrew Peter Kingsbury, 29, of La Crosse, Wis., all died within minutes of plunging into the icy water, according to Brand.
“It took about one-to-two minutes for all to be killed,” Brand said, explaining that a combination of hypothermia and drowning were the causes of death.
Sonneman further explained that Hauser’s blood alcohol content, which was measured at .168 percent, and the rate of speed at which she was driving, which was estimated to be at least 49 mph in a 30 mph zone, were both factors that contributed to the crash. “Because the driver, Christina Hauser, died in the crash, no criminal charges can be brought against her,” Sonneman read from the statement on the investigation, which came to the conclusion after a review of the evidence and a reconstruction of the accident.
When asked what charges, if any, would have been filed against Hauser had she survived the crash, Sonneman replied, “Based on the evidence, charges of driving while intoxicated and possibly criminal vehicular homicide, but again, since she is deceased as well, no criminal charges will be brought.”
As for any civil lawsuit, Brand said after the initial news conference that there was “probably a good chance” that the case would end up in civil court.
Additionally, information regarding the events of the night was also released, which included new details that suggested the group were on the way home from Wisconsin. Brand said exactly where the group had been in Wisconsin prior to the crash was still under investigation.
“We placed the accident after 2:30 in the morning, because we checked cell phones and found out there was texting going on between one of the men to another friend,” Brand said, adding that the messages were exchanged “around 2:30, when they were coming back from Wisconsin. We feel that they were probably on their way back home and [Hauser] was probably going to drop them off at one of the places where the boys lived.”
Both Brand and Sonneman reiterated multiple times throughout the news conference of the perils associated with drinking and driving.
“Drinking and driving is a dangerous combination,” Sonneman said. “We as parents and as citizens just want to encourage people to be cautious and careful. Drinking and driving — it is not a good combination.”
Despite multiple requests for the full accident report, which is considered public under Minnesota law, Sonneman declined to release the full report Monday, and instead made it clear that “inquiries for additional information regarding this matter may be directed to [her] office by making a written data practices request.” Keep reading the Winona Post for more on this story.