Crash reconstruction delays hinder investigation into alleged distracted driver

Crash reconstruction is becoming increasingly complicated and time-consuming due to a slew of new technology involved in the process, at least that’s the word from Minnesota State Patrol who is often involved in the reports – vital tools for law enforcement agencies looking to hold drivers accountable for motor vehicle crashes. 

In 2017 State Patrol conducted 473 crash reconstructions. Of those, State Patrol was the lead agency 67 percent of the time. 

Once completed, the reports are submitted to local police departments and sheriff's offices for consideration as authorities consider charges against the drivers responsible. But currently, Minnesota only has 43 crash reconstructionists who file such reports, causing an apparent backlog for local law enforcement offices whose job it is to turn those investigations over to prosecutors who then use them to make charging decisions.

Feeling the slog of that delay is Laura Berg. A reconstruction report is the final missing piece to the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office investigation into her case after her life was completely altered when a teenage distracted driver named Jordan Paulus crashed into her on the construction site she was working at. 

That was on July 31st – nearly eight months ago. Fortunately, despite Berg’s severe injuries, she and her new husband Ryan Berg reached a life milestone they weren’t sure they would – their wedding day.

“It was emotional. When we said our vows I teared up,” Ryan said. “[I’m] grateful. Very grateful.”

What the Bergs long for now is their day in court to face the teenage driver who left Laura in the hospital for six months. During that time she spent eight weeks in a coma. Laura also has at least three surgeries and years of recovery ahead of her.

It can take as little as 43 days for a reconstruction report to be completed--though lately the average report has taken 83 days. The reconstruction report is now the only documentation Anoka County Sheriff's Office needs before they submit the Berg’s case to the County Attorney.

“The state seems overtaxed with reconstruction cases, based on the number of Troopers they have that can complete them,” Commander Paul Sommer of the Anoka County Sheriff’s Office wrote in an e-mail to FOX 9 earlier this month.

State Patrol says they have recently added new members to their reconstruction team, including someone who looks solely at vehicle data downloads.

"This is no different than any other crime scene that you may be looking at, it takes time to gather and process all the evidence," said Major Matt Skol of the Minnesota State Patrol. "We want to make sure the families have answers as to exactly what happened."

"This is clearly a problem," Ryan Berg, said.

While Laura waits, the teenager responsible for her injuries continues to drive. In fact, four months after nearly taking Berg's life while behind the wheel, Paulus was given a speeding ticket for going at least 15 mph over the speed limit. 

“[She] hasn’t even apologized,” Laura said.

"I lost all remorse for her after that," Ryan added. 

Paulus told police she was checking a notification on her phone at the time of the crash, which left Laura hardly able to walk. She faces at least three surgeries and has years of recovery ahead of her. 

The Anoka County Sheriff's Office hopes to get the crash reconstruction report by mid-April.