Charges: Driver in crash that killed St. Thomas student said he ran because he was traumatized

The wreck killed 20-year-old St. Thomas student Ria Patel.
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The man now charged with criminal vehicular homicide in the crash that killed college student Ria Patel said he ran from the scene after being traumatized by Patel's condition after the wreck.

Michael Campbell, a 21-year-old from Minneapolis, was charged Wednesday with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, the Hennepin County Attorney's Office announced.

Campbell was driving the car, his girlfriend Patel in the passenger seat, when it slammed into the base of a stoplight shortly before 4 a.m. Sunday in Minneapolis, according to the charges.

Three witnesses then saw a man matching Campbell's description run from the scene (which police had said was the case.)

One of the witnesses – a woman who was driving on the exit ramp – said she immediately called 911 after she heard a loud crash and saw a man fleeing. Campbell then came back to the ruined car and began digging for something inside the driver's side door, she said.

She approached him, at which point he told her to call 911 – then he ran off again, the charges say.

His girlfriend Patel, meanwhile, was still in the passenger seat. That entire side "was crushed," according to the complaint, with the roof buckled in and a huge crack on the windshield.

First responders found Patel "slumped over and motionless," and suffering from clear life-threatening injuries. They tried CPR but she died at the scene, the charges say.

A wallet with Campbell's ID was found at the scene, according to the complaint.

Campbell was arrested Tuesday at a home in Wright County. In an interview with investigators, he admitted to to drinking before getting in the car and said he ran from the scene because he was traumatized by seeing Patel's state immediately afterward.

Roommates of Campbell told investigators they saw him sometime before 2 a.m., and described him as "super drunk."

Campbell was already on probation for a misdemeanor hit-and-run from January, the complaint says.

He's expected to be in court Thursday.

Seventy-three people were killed in drunk driving-related crashes last year, state figures show. The Department of Public Safety says about a quarter of all deaths on the road involve alcohol as a factor.

A prayer vigil for Patel is set for 8:30 p.m. Thursday at St. Thomas, the school said, with the entire St. Thomas community welcome to attend. A funeral will be Saturday.

Students who want support or help dealing with Patel's death can also reach out to school resources here.

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