(FOX 9) - A fiery, late night crash on I-90 in southern Minnesota left a total of six people dead and two families shattered in August 2019.
With no traffic cameras in that corridor of the freeway and no one who actually saw what happened, it was up to the Minnesota State Patrol to comb through the wreckage and the evidence to figure out what went so tragically wrong in the head-on collision.
Investigators knew one of the two vehicles involved was going the wrong way in the westbound lanes.
In one car, Christopher Peterson was driving a Chrysler with his sister and mom riding as passengers.
Sheila Eagle was driving the other car, a Ford Focus, with her daughter and grand-daughter on their way to a funeral in South Dakota.
Based on everything at the scene, investigators first believed it was the Ford Focus who had been going in the wrong direction. But, Sheila Eagle’s partner, Tyreace Brown Sr., never believed that to be the case.
“They’ve driven that route before, and there was no doubt in my mind, they weren’t the party at fault,” he said.
State Patrol crash reconstruction specialist, Sergeant Kris Geiger, and his team used Eagle’s cell phone to further investigate the case. They followed the pings of interstate towers via sophisticated Google mapping technology and concluded the Focus was, at all times, traveling west.
Meanwhile, a phone from Peterson’s car indicated some eastbound travel in the moments just before the crash. The vehicle had apparently just exited a highway rest area about a mile away.
Sgt Geiger told FOX 9, “It’s kinda like putting a puzzle together.”
The months-long investigation also determined the 26-year-old was under the influence, opening new wounds for Tyreace one year later.
“Getting the findings of the people in the vehicle, that they probably shouldn’t have been on road anyway… very difficult to take. Sad all around. But, they shouldn’t have been on the road," he said.
“In this situation, what we may have thought was one thing, changed and evolved as we got into the investigation. That’s why we always let people know these are preliminary findings until we get all the facts and we want to get it right. That’s why it takes time to do these investigations,” explained State Patrol spokesman, Lt. Gordon Shank.