Charges: Motorcyclists died in crash caused by negligent farmer

The June 1 crash claimed the lives of high school sweethearts.
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Marvin and Kathy Fandrich

Marvin and Kathy Fandrich

A 60-year-old Minnesota man has been charged in connection to the deaths of a South Dakota couple traveling on a motorcycle through Minnesota. 

The fatal crash happened June 1 on Hwy. 19 near County Road 65 in Sibley County – about 40 miles southwest of Eden Prairie – when a 16-foot livestock trailer broke free from a tractor that was westbound on Hwy. 19. The trailer veered into the eastbound lane of traffic where it fatally struck two people on a motorcycle. 

According to a criminal complaint, Curtis Marc Petzel, 60, of rural Arlington, Minnesota, failed to properly secure the trailer that broke free from his tractor. The complaint states that Petzel failed to use the correct size trailer ball to fasten to the tractor, in addition to failing to attach a safety chain and failing to connect a cable that could've been used to connect brakes and brake lights. 

"The trailer attached to the ball by means of a Bull Dog coupler. The coupler was clearly marked, “USE 2 5/16 IN BALL ONLY.” Therefore, it is clear defendant used the wrong size ball for the coupler that was used," the complaint states. 

Crash reconstruction performed by the Minnesota State Patrol concluded that Petzel's failure to use the right ball to attach the trailer to the tractor was the primary contributing factor in the deadly crash. 

Had Petzel connected the safety chain, the crash also may have been prevented. 

The motorcyclists killed in the crash were with a group of family members traveling from Aberdeen, South Dakota to Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Welch, Minnesota. They were going approximately 60 mph when the trailer broke free, and the complaint states that they had no time to react before colliding with it. 

The victims were identified as Marvin Duane Fandrich, 60, and Kathy Lynn Fandrich, 61, both of Aberdeen. They were high school sweethearts who married in 1980, according to Kathy Fandrich's obituary

Petzel has been charged with two counts of 2nd-degree manslaughter, two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, two counts of reckless driving and one count of careless driving. 

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