Dakota County Attorney Kathy Keena announced that Fred Tamu Fonji, age 48 of Roseville, has been charged* with two counts of Criminal Vehicular Homicide (Gross Negligence) in connection with the fatal crash on Highway 55 near Doyle Path in Rosemount on October 17, 2019 that killed 48-year-old Colette Larae Craig and 47-year-old William Louis Craig of South St. Paul. He made his first appearance yesterday in Dakota County District Court.
A summary of the allegations contained in the criminal complaint is set forth below:
Around 12:20 p.m. on October 17, 2019, a Trooper with the Minnesota State Patrol was traveling westbound on Minnesota Highway 55 in Rosemount and observed a semi-truck angled from the eastbound lane across to the westbound lane. As the Trooper got closer, he observed a dump truck next to the semi-truck along with a crushed passenger vehicle that had been split in half and smashed in between the two. A pick-up truck was observed in the ditch along the eastbound lane of travel and the scene was still “smoking".
The Trooper located the drivers of the pick-up truck, semi-truck, and the dump truck. Fonji was identified as the driver of the dump truck. As the Trooper approached the passenger vehicle, he observed Colette Craig lying face down on the ground outside crushed vehicle with her leg still pinned inside. She initially had a faint pulse that weakened and then stopped within a few seconds. Ms. Craig was pronounced dead at the scene. After a tow-truck removed the semi-truck so that Ms. Craig could be accessed, William Craig was discovered in the driver's seat and was also pronounced dead at the scene.
A witness explained he saw the semi-truck waiting to turn and saw the dump truck approaching at the posted speed limit. He saw the dump truck hit one car then another before stopping side-by-side with the semi-truck. The witness had to veer into the ditch to avoid a head-on collision. Other witnesses said they didn't see any brake lights from the dump truck before the crash.
In the days following the crash, a Trooper was contacted by a landfill employee who stated that the driver of the dump truck was always on the phone, including his three stops the day of the crash. Two cell phones - a Samsung Galaxy and an iPhone - were seized from the Defendant and submitted for forensic analysis in October of 2019. However, at that time, the BCA was unable to extract any data due to the software's limitations. In September 2020, the BCA advised the updated software should now be able to analyze the phone and new search warrants were obtained and executed. The forensic analysis of the Samsung Galaxy phone showed two incoming messages on the WhatsApp application: one at 12:18:50pm and another at 12:19:10pm. The Trooper and squad video reflect his arrival to the scene at 12:20:19pm. Based on the limitations of the software, it could not be determined if the messages were opened or viewed but did register that the phone had “received" both messages.
A crash reconstruction was completed and found that the Defendant would have been traveling 55-58 mph or faster at the time of impact with the pick-up truck. The pick-up truck then veered off the roadway into the ditch while the dump truck struck the Victims' vehicle, pushing it into the semi-truck where it split in half and was pinned between the semi and dump truck. The reconstruction report indicated that all vehicles – other than the Defendant's – were either stopped or nearly stopped when the crash occurred. No other conditions, including alcohol or a controlled substance, weather or road conditions were found to have contributed to the crash. The Defendant should have been able to perceive the slow or stopped traffic ahead of him with enough time to stop.
Additional facts pertaining to this case can be found in the criminal complaint at Criminal Complaint Search. If in custody, a mug shot can be viewed at Inmate Search.
Bail was set in the amount of $250,000 without conditions and $25,000 with conditions by Dakota County District Court Judge Karen Asphaug. Fonji's next court appearance is scheduled for November 3, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. in Hastings.
Keena commented: “Our deepest sympathy is extended to the family and friends of Colette and William Craig for their great loss."
Keena thanked the Minnesota State Patrol and the Rosemount Police Department for their thorough investigation into this deadly crash.
If you have questions, contact Kathy Keena at 651-438-4440.
*Criminal charges are not evidence of guilt. A defendant/suspect is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.