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2 years later, dump truck driver charged in fatal crash that killed South St. Paul couple

The Craigs were out looking at fall colors along the river when the wreck occurred.

A dump truck driver who slammed into the back of a stopped sedan in 2019, killing the South St. Paul couple inside, now faces criminal charges and accusations he may have been distracted by his phone.

Fred Tamu Fonji, 46, was charged in Dakota County Tuesday with two counts of felony criminal vehicular homicide in connection with the Oct. 17, 2019 crash. The wreck, according to the State Patrol's incident report at the time, happened at about 12:20 p.m. on eastbound Highway 55 at Doyle Path in Rosemount. 

Fonji wasn't seriously injured, but the collision killed Colette and William Craig, who were 48 and 47 years old, respectively, at the time. They were in a Subaru Legacy, stopped behind a semi truck that was waiting to turn left on to Doyle Path. A Dodge Ram was behind the Subaru Legacy, also at a stop, according to the State Patrol's report.

Fonji, driving a Volvo dump truck, rear ended the Dodge Ram, pushing it into the ditch, then slammed into the Craigs' Subaru Legacy. This caused their vehicle to "split in half" as it was "smashed" between the dump truck and stopped semi, according to the criminal charges filed against Fonji. 

The Craigs, known as Cully and Will, had been out driving to take in the fall colors at the time of the crash, their obituary says. They both grew up in the Twin Cities and met at a church in Minneapolis. They were members of the Civil Air Patrol.

Authorities seized two cellphones belonging to Fonji at the time of the crash, but were unable to access the data because of "software limitations," the complaint states. That changed in September of 2020, prompting authorities to get a search warrant to analyze the phones.

One of the phones showed two incoming messages on the WhatsApp at 12:18:50 p.m. and another at 12:19:10 p.m. The first state trooper arrived on the scene of the crash 79 seconds after the latter message came through, according to the charges. The forensic analysis couldn't determine whether the messages were opened or viewed.

Investigators also spoke with a witness who alleged Fonji was "always" on the phone, and said she had seen him at the nearby dump three times before the crash, on his phone each time, according to the criminal complaint.

The charges say the dump truck was likely traveling 55-58 mph when it struck the first stopped vehicle.

A nationwide warrant for Fonji's arrest was filed along with the criminal complaint. Online court records indicate he was not in custody as of Wednesday morning. An initial court appearance has not been set.

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