Loved ones question circumstances after deadly crash on I-94 involving loose semi tires

Those who knew the victims of a shocking deadly crash involving two tires flying off a passing semi on I-94 in St. Michael and striking the victims’ SUV are now questioning if this tragedy involves negligence that could have otherwise been prevented.

"Their energy was just so full of life," said Santhany Xayarath, a close friend of both victims, Lea Khamphachanh and Mineta Nguyen. "And it's like their laughter, their smiles. Everything was just so bright when they came around."

Xayarath spoke to FOX 9’s Paul Blume via Zoom from her Las Vegas home on Wednesday. She was on her way back to Minnesota for the funerals of her dear friends that are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday.

Khamphachanh and Nguyen, both moms with several children, were killed Saturday evening in Wright County. Traffic camera footage captured the deadly crash just before 5 p.m. The pair were in a Nissan Rogue with three others who survived, on their way to a friend’s birthday dinner.

The State Patrol reported a Freightliner semi lost two tires traveling westbound on the freeway. The women, on the eastbound side of the interstate, were struck by the wayward tires. 

Xayarath, who cherishes her memories of group adventures together over the years, has been having nightmares ever since she learned what happened.

"It has been sleepless nights," she told Blume. "It is really, really hard to sleep. It is very emotional just because it is a very, very close-knit community."

Fifteen years ago, the FOX 9 Investigators took a close look at loose tires coming free from trucks, and how those large tires are basically turned into lethal missiles.

The State Patrol is not commenting on the ongoing investigation into what exactly happened, and why this particular semi driven by a 37-year-old Savage man lost two tires on I-94. Xayarath is tormented by the circumstances.

"I have had a lot of emotions in regards to that," explained Xayarath. "I had a lot of what-ifs. It is very painful to know how their life was taken and ended so suddenly. If this did not happen, they would still be here with us."