Two injured after vehicle goes off I-35 bridge

By Adelle Whitefoot

Two people were injured after their vehicle went off an elevated section of Interstate 35 early Saturday morning in Duluth.

The driver of the Ford Ranger, Laura Erhardt, of Superior, lost control of the vehicle on the icy roadway which vaulted over the concrete barrier landing on its roof in the Duluth Depot railroad yard below the freeway on top of a railcar. Erhardt, 30, and passenger Nathan Waters, 28, of Superior, were both taken to local hospitals with non-life-threatening injuries.

Two other vehicles were involved but stayed on the freeway and sustained just minor damage, according to Duluth Assistant Fire Chief Mark Herman.

“When you’re in a crash on the freeway, it’s best to stay in your car buckled in,” Herman said. “If one car spins out other cars can. So, it’s important for safety reasons that people stay in their cars and buckled in if there is a crash on the freeway because it’s a super dangerous spot to be.”

Multiple fire engines responded to the scene including Rescue 1, which holds all of the special equipment needed for extrication, said Capt. Aaron Bujold with the Duluth Fire Department.

“We had to do a lot of extrication because of the way it landed on the old railroad car,” Bujold said. “The cab had crushed in quite a bit, so we had to do quite a bit of extrication to get the two occupants out.”

There were multiple crashes along I-35 in Duluth on Saturday morning as road conditions were slippery.

Preplanning made for quick response

On Thursday, a crash happened near the same spot on I-35 when a vehicle rolled onto its side. Bujold and his crew also responded to that wreck.

“While we were on scene waiting for the wrecker to pick up the vehicle, we thought that the incident could have been much worse if the vehicle would have come over the side (of the freeway) and landed in (the area behind the Duluth Depot),” he said. “So, my crew and I discussed how we could gain access and how things could be different and how we would plan for that incident if it were ever to happen, and unfortunately it happened today.”

Bujold said Thursday’s discussion allowed them to quickly gain access to Saturday’s crash.

“The way that the snow is ramped there and the low railing system, they pre-planned it, so they knew exactly how to get down here and that’s what made their response so quick coming in today,” Herman said.