A 17-year-old is facing six charges following a July crash that killed a 10-year-old girl and the girl's father and injured several others.
A juvenile delinquency petition filed in Sherburne County District Court last week says a 17-year-old Little Falls girl was behind the wheel of a pickup truck that ran a red light and hit a van at the intersection of Highway 10 and County Road 11, near Becker, on July 21, the St. Cloud Times reports.
Charles Maurer, 54, of Becker, was pronounced dead that night and his 10-year-old daughter Cassy Maurer died from injuries sustained in the crash 10 days later. Maurer's other daughter and her friend were injured in the crash, along with the four people traveling in the pickup truck.
The driver of the pickup is accused of using her cellphone while behind the wheel, and lying about who was driving at the time of the crash, the Star Tribune says.
She was charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide, two counts of criminal vehicular operation, use of a wireless communications device and driving without a valid license, WJON reports. (It is BringMeTheNews' policy not to name juveniles who are charged.)
During the initial investigation, the driver of the vehicle was identified as an 18-year-old Little Falls man – the only one in the truck with a valid driver's license, the Star Tribune says.
But search warrants later indicated the 17-year-old girl was actually driving at the time, the St. Cloud Times notes.
She is accused of using her cell phone, ignoring several requests from one of her passengers to put down the phone, reports note. Right before the crash, one of the passengers yelled "red light, red light," the St. Cloud Times says.
The petition shows she sent and received multiple messages on Facebook between 7:49 p.m. and 7:57 p.m. The first 911 call regarding the crash was made at 7:59 p.m., WJON notes.
State Patrol Lt. Tiffani Schweigart told the Star Tribune that it's "an illusion" to believe texting and driving isn't dangerous, saying "lives can change or be lost in the fraction of a second."
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety lists distracted driving as a factor in one in four crashes, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries every year.
It is against the law to text while behind the wheel of a vehicle. In fact, the state recently increased the texting-while-driving fine to help combat the ongoing problem. State law also prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from using a cellular device while driving.
The U.S. Department of Transportation says at any given time during the day, roughly 660,000 Americans are using cell phones and electronic devices while behind the wheel.