After deadly western Wisconsin crash, highway expected to get safety improvements
POLK COUNTY, Wis. (FOX 9) - A dangerous stretch of road in Polk County, Wisconsin, where a deadly multi-vehicle crash occurred on Saturday afternoon is expected to get safety improvements this summer.
A two-lane 55 mph roadway on Highway 65 has big curves, potentially dangerous bends, and blind, cresting hills in a stretch, that at times hugs the Apple River. In fact, some locals have dubbed it "roller coaster road."
Authorities tell FOX 9, it can be a draw for young drivers seeking a thrill, and is extremely popular with motorcyclists in warmer weather months, but where Sheriff Brent Waak cautions, speed and inexperience can kill.
"You should be driving as a form of transportation, not seeking a thrill," Sheriff Waak said. "And certainly, high-speed is a major factor in just about every fatality."
Sheriff Waak said transportation officials are currently taking bids for a Highway 65 safety improvement project between Star Prairie and Highway 8 that includes the crash site, where car parts, motor vehicles and emergency medical debris still litter the shoulder of the roadway several days later.
"It is to smooth some of the hills, to ease the curves, to also improve the shoulder area, and also have a rumble strip in the middle of the center line," explained Sheriff Waak.
The sheriff previously reported on Feb. 11, a car of young people was speeding northbound up over a hill when the driver lost control, crossed the center lane, and smashed into at least two other cars.
18-year-old Masen Powell of Spring Valley, Wisconsin was killed. Four others in the vehicle with him, including the driver, were seriously injured.
Among those hurt were brothers Ryan and Alex Sabrowsky of Somerset. A pair of popular athletes in their hometown, Alex is a standout on his Bantam hockey team.
"It's really hard to see," said Alex’s coach Nick Oster. "When we first heard the news, it was a shock and it was tragic. And all our prayers and sympathy goes to the family."
While Ryan is now home healing up with broken bones, the road ahead for brother Alex at Gillette Children’s Hospital in Saint Paul is a huge concern as prayers pour in from across the Somerset community. His family and medical team are particularly worried about the injuries to the 8th grader’s brain. His hockey teammates all slapped Alex’s #4 on their helmets for their most recent game on Sunday, a day after the crash, in a show of love and support.
"The kids were all pretty upset when they had heard the news," explained Oster. "We just wanted to do a little something. So we decided to put the number on the helmet and, you know, make it like he's out there with us."
On Tuesday, Alex also got a very special delivery as a couple of Minnesota Wild players stopped by his hospital bed. Goalie Filip Gustavsson and forward Brandon Duhaime offered words of hope and encouragement to the teen’s loved ones. Duhaime then took off his #21 jersey and autographed it as a gift to the hockey-loving youngster whose coaches say is one tough kid.
"He absolutely is a fighter," said Oster. "Knowing Alex, for as long as we have, I think I’ve coached him for four years… He's definitely on the fighter side of things."
Sheriff Waak told FOX 9’s Paul Blume on Wednesday that as soon as the investigation and crash reconstruction is complete, the case fill will be turned over to the local District Attorney’s office for possible criminal charges.