Paramedic killed in crash was 'champion of the underdog'

The family of Marina Challeen, the 24-year-old paramedic killed when her ambulance crashed with a semi on Interstate 694, told Fox 9 she was a “champion of the underdog” who would help anyone who needed it. She will be remembered as a good person, who loved comic books and Star Trek.

“You cannot say goodbye to somebody like Marina,” the family said in a statement. “She was accepting of people for who they were, looked for the best in everybody and loved to share and celebrate that best. She had a love of helping and healing people and for listening. You cannot say goodbye to that, all we can do is extent it to each other.”

At about 7 p.m. Monday night, a HealthEast ambulance crashed into a semi stalled near the split for I-694 and I-94. The semi had stalled due to mechanical issues about 15 minutes before the crash and was the in the process of getting towed when the crash happened. The ambulance was coming from Monticello and heading to the Riverside neighborhood in Minneapolis. The ambulance did not have its lights or sirens on and was not carrying any patients.

Challeen was riding in the passenger seat and was pronounced dead at the scene. Emergency crews took the ambulance driver, identified as 27-year-old Susanna Grace Kelly, to North Memorial Medical Center for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

"Last evening, there was a tragic motor vehicle collision that involved one of our HealthEast ambulances," a HealthEast spokesperson said in a statement. "We lost a valued member of our HealthEast Medical Transportation Team. As we work with law enforcement to understand what happened, we ask for thoughts and prayers for our colleague, grieving family and friends and our team."

The driver of the semi has been identified as Paulette Alicia Mejia, 44, of Temple, Georgia. She was not injured in the crash.

The crash is still under investigation by the Minnesota State Patrol.