Dump truck driver charged with criminal vehicular homicide in 2019 Rosemount crash

The man involved in a 2019 crash on Highway 55 in Rosemount has been charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide.

Fred Tamu Fonji, 48, of Roseville, made his first appearance in Dakota County District Court Wednesday. 

The crash happened on Oct. 17, 2019, killing two people from South St. Paul. According to the criminal compliant, a witness driving westbound on Highway 55 saw a semi-tuck waiting to turn left onto Doyle Path as a dump truck approached. Fonji, the driver of the dump truck, hit a pickup truck and another car before stopping side-by-side with the semi-truck.

The crash reconstruction report found that Fonji would have been traveling at least 55 mph when he hit the pickup truck, veering it off the roadway into a ditch. Fonji's dump truck then struck the victims' car, pushing it into the semi-truck and splitting it in half. The report also found that there were no weather or road conditions that contributed to the crash, and the driver should have been able to slow and stop before reaching the  traffic ahead of him. Another contributing factor could be the driver's distraction by a phone.

A Minnesota State Patrol Trooper came to the scene around 12:20 p.m. and saw a semi-truck angled across the lanes, a dump truck, and a crushed passenger vehicle that was spilt in half and smashed between the two trucks. Both victims, 48-year-old Colette Larae Craig and 47-year-old William Louis Craig died at the scene.

Two days after the crash, an employee of the landfill contacted a state trooper to describe the defendant and report the assigned truck number involved in the crash. The employee shared that Fonji had come through her station three times on the day of the crash and was on his phone every time. She said she told him to stop using his phone each time she saw it in his hand since the landfill has a "no phone" policy, the charges say. 

Authorities seized a Samsung Galaxy and an iPhone from Fonji and submitted them for forensic analysis in October 2019. The Bureau of Criminal Apprehension was unable to extract any data until September 2020 with updated software. The forensic analysis showed two incoming messages on WhatsApp at 12:18 p.m. and 12:19 p.m.

There was no presence of a controlled substance in the driver, according to the criminal compliant. 

Fonji will make his next court appearance on Nov. 3.