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Moorhead parents allege school, State Patrol covered up facts in 2015 crash that killed their sons

Zachary and Connor Kvalvog were on their way to a basketball tournament in Wisconsin when they died in a crash with a semi-truck.
Connor and Zachary Kvalvog - CROP

The parents of two brothers who were killed in a crash on the way to a basketball tournament in 2015 have filed a civil lawsuit against the boys' school and the Minnesota State Patrol, alleging they lied about what happened in the crash.

Raymond and Katherine Kvalvog, of Moorhead, filed the lawsuit on July 8 in U.S. District Court, alleging Park Christian School (PCS) administration, PCS coaches and State Patrol Sgt. Rodney Eischens, among others, conspired against the family in an attempt to deny them due process as they sought damages in the deaths of their sons in a 2019 wrongful death civil trial. 

The lawsuit alleges former basketball coach Josh Lee lied about what happened before and after the crash and the school covered it up to avoid any liability, with the help of Sgt. Eischens, a longtime friend of some PCS staff. Together, the lawsuit alleges, they placed blame on the Kvalvog's oldest son and then onto a "phantom semi-tractor and trailer" who Eischens "did little to identify."

In the 2019 civil trial, a jury ruled in favor of the school and Lee, determining the semi-truck driver was negligent in the crash and the Kvalvog's son was not negligent. But the new lawsuit says the jury was given incorrect information. 

The State Patrol, in a brief statement to Bring Me The News, said: "As a matter of practice, the Minnesota State Patrol does not discuss pending litigation." Bring Me The News has also reached out to Park Christian School for comment.

Kvalvog family

Zachary, 18, and Connor, 14, Kvalvog were on their way to a basketball tournament with Park Christian School when they were involved in a crash on Interstate 94 near Dalton at 9:08 a.m. on June 13, 2015. Zachary was driving his dad's pickup truck in a caravan with Connor and two other teammates, Jimmy Schwandt and Jimmy Morton, in the vehicle; Schwandt and Morton survived. 

According to the State Patrol in 2015, a semi-truck was traveling close to the boys' pickup truck and it's believed the semi-truck swerved into the boys' lane, then Zachary swerved, overcorrected, and crashed. 

The lawsuit alleges Zachary was the third vehicle in the caravan, following vehicles driven by coaches Tim Kerr and Lee (Lee's vehicle had no other players in it, but Zachary was still forced to drive). As the caravan approached mile marker 68, Kerr passed a semi-truck and when Lee passed the semi, a passenger in Kerr's vehicle saw Lee cut off the truck. 

This resulted in the semi encroaching in the other lane, where Zachary was driving, the complaint says. He tried to avoid the truck, but couldn't. 

"The Kvalvog vehicle hurtled into the ditch, down one side and up the other, rolling and becoming airborne as its roof was ripped from the vehicle by the guard rail wire and both personal property of its occupants, as well as Jimmy Morton and Connor Kvalvog, were ejected onto the highway," the lawsuit says. "After barreling through the median, the vehicle with its roof gone and appearing as if it had exploded, crashed down onto the shoulder of the highway where Zachary Kvalvog died still strapped upside down in his seat."

Connor didn't die instantly. He landed face-down on the highway, where passersby saw him lying "like a rag doll" and pulled him off the road to prevent him from being run over, the lawsuit says.

"Neither coach Kerr nor defendant Lee rendered assistance," the complaint alleges, adding Lee "did nothing to help [Zachary and Connor] and instead immediately called the leadership at ... PCS where the mechanism of the cover-up commenced rapidly." 

The lawsuit says both coaches downplayed the fact they were traveling 80-plus mph and Sgt. Eischens was "careful to exclude" speed as a "cause" of the crash. Meanwhile, the school quickly distanced itself from the crash by saying the tournament they were headed to was not a school event. 

"Conclusions made by Defendant Eichens in his Kvalvog crash report were intentionally inaccurate, incomplete, deceitful and misleading," the complaint said, noting statements were either taken from teammates involved in the crash and weren't used or he didn't take them at all.

Eischens assisted his friends at PCS "as they sought to avoid liability," the lawsuit said, adding Eischens "engaged in a systematic effort to mold the crash report" to fit a narrative that absolved the school of any liability by blaming Zachary and then later blaming the semi-truck driver, who has never been identified. 

Related [June 24, 2017]: 2 years after crash that killed MN brothers, family doubles reward for some answers

"PCS’s pervasive culture of coercion, scorn and its many violations of [Minnesota State High School League] rules, PCS was motivated to distance itself from responsibility in every way possible so as to avoid liability," the lawsuit states, noting having the varsity basketball team play in an off-season tournament with their coaches is against MSHSL rules. 

The lawsuit alleges the fatal crash was preventable, saying the Kvalvog boys were forced to participate in the tournament and Zachary was made to drive there. It added the Kvalvogs were "singled out for special scorn" by the school because they weren't "good enough Christians" and were an "outside family." It also says "scorn was visited upon the family" for multiple reasons, including for paying the tuition of disadvantaged and minority students. 

In addition to naming the Park Christian School and Sgt. Eischens, the lawsuit names PCS President Christopher Nellermoe, former PCS president Kent Hannestad, former head football coach Kerr, coach Lee, the Minnesota State Patrol, State Patrol Capt. Brian Cheney and Col. Matthew Langer.

The complaint does not list a specific amount for damages being sought by the Kvalvogs.

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