‘I hear no urgency': Frustration follows deadly crash on Highway 12

A grieving family is calling for answers in the wake of a young woman’s deadly crash on Highway 12 in Independence, Minnesota last weekend.

Marleena Dieterich was headed east on Highway 12, when she lost control on the icy roads and crossed over the centerline into the westbound lane. Her vehicle collided with an oncoming semi truck. The truck driver tried to swerve out of the way, but was unable to avoid the crash.

Thursday afternoon, Marleena’s father and grandmother spoke at the Highway 12 Safety Coalition meeting, asking for action from the group. 

“There are things you can be doing right now so somebody else doesn’t have this cause,” said Thomas Dieterich. “And I’m not hearing that. I hear no urgency.”

“An 18-year-old girl died and nobody thinks they should go do something, anything. Right now?” said Faye Dieterich, Marleena’s grandmother.

Marleena’s crash happened along the highway’s most dangerous seven-mile stretch. So far, there have already been 14 crashes on Highway 12 this year.

“That poor [truck driver] has to live with the fact that he killed an 18-year-old girl because there was nothing done there and the problem has been there forever,” said Faye Dieterich. “You have a big problem there.”

Major improvements on Highway 12 won’t begin until 2021. In the meantime, community members are proposing cable barriers, digital signs and sanding icy patches.

With another round of inclement weather coming this weekend, concern over the dangerous highway remains.

“Each and every day we worry about our family, and our friends and our citizens driving on that road and potentially getting harmed from a crash,” said West Hennepin Public Safety Department Chief Gary Kroells.

After Marleena’s sudden death, one question is heavy on the minds of all who rely on the heavily-traveled corridor: how many more people have to die on Highway 12 before some real changes take place?

“We have a lot of engineering to do on these projects,” said Aaron Tag, west area engineer MnDOT metro district. “We have right of way to buy for some of them, we’re working to implement these projects as quickly as we can.”

A celebration of life memorial will be held for Marleena this Saturday in Stillwater at the Bradshaw Celebration of Life Center at 10 a.m.