3 die in 2 separate motorcycle crashes in NE Minnesota

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Three people died in two separate crashes in northeastern Minnesota during the Fourth of July holiday, according to reports.

The Duluth News Tribune says authorities have identified a Rice Lake Township man as the victim in a fatal crash in St. Louis County Thursday morning.

Benjamin Scott Jones, 24, died just before 11 a.m. Thursday after his motorcycle struck a sport utility vehicle in Gnesen Township. According to sheriff's officials, Jones was trying to pass the SUV as it made a left turn into the driveway of the Gnesen General store, when the motorcycle collided with the vehicle and went into a ditch.

Jones was not wearing a helmet, officials said. The person in vehicle sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

WCCO and The Associated Press report that a couple riding on a motorcycle also died Thursday after the driver reportedly loss control and crashed.

The Minnesota State Patrol says the victims -- a 57-year-old male driver and his 47-year-old female passenger -- were heading north on Interstate 35 in Pine County around noon when the accident happened.

Identification of the victims is pending as authorities contact relatives.

The victims were reportedly airlifted to hospitals in Duluth after the crash. The male passenger died at St. Luke's Hospital in Duluth, while the female passenger died at St. Mary's Hospital.

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