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Speed, alcohol contributed to fatal Winona crash

Jan. 5, 2014-Mississippi River along Riverview Drive where vehicle crashed. Jan. 5, 2014-Mississippi River along Riverview Drive where vehicle crashed.
Rescue crews search for the body of Andrew Kingsbury following the Jan. 5 crash. Rescue crews search for the body of Andrew Kingsbury following the Jan. 5 crash.
WINONA, Minn. (WXOW) – After completing an investigation of a fatal SUV crash that claimed four lives in Winona Jan. 5, law enforcement announced Monday they will not be filing any criminal charges.

Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand and County Attorney Karin Sonneman discussed details of the investigation at a news conference Monday in Winona.

“Because the driver, Christina Hauser, died in the crash, no criminal charges can be brought against her,” Sonneman said, adding she would have likely been charged with drunk driving and vehicular homicide.

According to their report, Hauser, 36, of Winona, had a blood alcohol level of 0.168 at the time she crashed an SUV through a guardrail on Riverview Drive into the icy Mississippi River.

Hauser was driving at least 49 mph in a 30 mph zone, according to the report.

Also riding in the SUV was Matthew Patrick Erickson, 29, of Chatfield, Blake Overland, 28, of Stewartville, and Andrew Kingsbury, 29, of La Crosse.

While no criminal charges are pending, a civil suit filed by families of the victims is possible, Brand said. Those suits could target the taverns serving the victims and/or Hauser's family.

When search crews recovered the vehicle Jan. 5, Hauser and Erickson's bodies were found inside, seat-belted in.

Divers found Overland's body in the river the following day.

It took an intense two-week search with divers from across the region to recover Kingsbury. Underwater Sonar cameras played a large role, according to Brand.

"It only took a minute to two minutes before they were dead in this cold weather,” Brand said.

The crash happen around 2:30 a.m., Brand said. Based on text messages on the victims' phones, his team was able to tell they went to a bar in Minnesota, then one in Wisconsin, and were driving back through Winona before the crash.

"As far as the roadway, we don't know what the state's gonna do or Winona will do. There are people questioning why don't we do something with the road,” Brand said.

The January crash is very similar to what happened in March 1997 when five people and two dogs ran off the same road and drowned the river.

The crash site is now surrounded by more barriers.

"You got to drive accordingly. Even though it says 30 miles per hour, you have (railroad) tracks to go over,” Brand said, adding the county may do more to secure the area.

Three months later, the crash sight looks very similar to the way it did back in January.

Remains of the SUV sit idle, wilted flowers from a memorial hang by the river edge, and the ground is still covered in snow.

"These families lost loved ones, lost children,” Sonneman said.

All three men were childhood friends from Lanesboro, Minn. Brand said the families are supporting each other through this very difficult time.
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