18-year-old's death on Hwy. 12 renews calls for safety upgrades

Image 1 of 2

(Photo credit: Thomas Dieterich)

On a seven-mile stretch of Highway 12 near Independence, Minnesota, 14 crashes have been reported in the last two months, including one that took the life of an 18-year-old woman Saturday.

That’s why officials say improvements to the road can’t come quick enough.

Broken glass and tire tracks were the eerie remnants of the most recent Hwy. 12 crash.

“There were two vehicles involved,” said Sgt. Rick Denneson, of West Hennepin Public Safety. “One was a passenger car, the other was a semi-truck and it looked like a head-on crash.”

Saturday’s crash occurred at the intersection of Lake Haughey road and the undivided stretch of the infamous corridor.

“The highway was extremely slippery, it looked like pavement but it was ice,” Denneson said.

18-year-old Marleena Anna Dieterich, of Delano, was in a 2002 Acura sedan headed east on Hwy. 12 when she lost control, spun over the center line into the westbound lane and collided with an oncoming semi-truck.

“He was traveling under the speed limit because he knew the roads were slippery and he was trying to be cautious,” Denneson said.

The truck driver tried to swerve out of the way, but was unable to avoid the crash.

What is clear is that the area needs improvements like concrete barriers, but they aren’t scheduled to begin until 2021.

Denneson said if a concrete barrier existed there Saturday morning, there would have been no crash.

Dieterich was an honors student and senior at Delano High School. She regularly donned her letterman’s jacket and was a black belt in Taekwondo. She represented Minnesota on a global level multiple times at Destination Imagination, which is an academic competition.

“Just a bright student and a wonderful senior student to represent our high school,” said Delano Superintendent Matthew W. Schoen.

Dieterich also loved to travel and even spoke Spanish, French and was learning Chinese.

College-bound, she planned to major in biomedical sciences and minor in pre-med. Hers was a promising life taken by a tragedy on Hwy. 12.

“It’s just a tragedy that’s very difficult to process,” said Schoen.

Support staff will be made available at Delano High School Monday for students in need. Meanwhile, the Hwy. 12 safety coalition will meet again this Thursday at Delano City Hall.