Driver killed in building crash

Published 4:59 pm Monday, August 9, 2010

Emergency workers assess the scene Monday afternoon after a dump truck smashed into a Brownsdale insurance building off of Highway 56. The truck's driver, Paul H. Fjerstad, 56, of Kasson, Minn., was killed. Photos by Mike Rose/

A dump truck driver was killed after he swerved off of Highway 56 and into an unoccupied Brownsdale building at around 3 p.m. Monday afternoon.

It is unclear why Paul H. Fjerstad, 56, of Kasson, Minn., lost control of the vehicle, although initial reports on-scene indicate that it may have been due to a medical problem.

A dump truck sticks out from a Brownsdale insurance building Monday afternoon after the driver swerved off of Highway 56. The SUV in the foreground was also struck by the truck.

Fjerstad crashed into the First American Insurance building, located at 106 South Mill St. That building typically houses one worker, but she had gone to buy a soda at a nearby gas station when the accident happened. Other than Fjerstad, the only reported injury was an older man biking nearby who began suffering from chest pains after the crash, possibly due to stress. He was transported via ambulance.

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Crews had the scene cleared at around 6:25 p.m., as they had to work carefully to keep the badly damaged building from collapsing. The truck was also partially lodged into a neighboring vacant building.

Hauschildt said Fjerstad was traveling northbound on Highway 56 when the truck began to veer into the southbound lane. Fjerstad then swerved across the line and smashed into a parked sedan before hitting the building, located on the west side of the street.

A Chevrolet Trailblazer belonging to the woman working at the insurance building was also struck by the dump truck.

Brad Holland, who works at the nearby Greenway gas station, said he looked out a store window after the dump truck hit the sedan. He then saw it careen into the insurance building, traveling at an estimated 30 to 40 mph. He said the truck’s impact with the building sent a large cloud of dust and debris into the air.

Holland quickly dialed 911 at around 3 p.m. He said the situation thankfully wasn’t worse, noting that the woman working in the insurance building was in his store at the time and no one else was near the crash site.

This Ford Taurus was hit by an oncoming dump truck that swerved into a Brownsdale building Monday afternoon. No one was inside the sedan.

“It could have been really ugly,” Holland added.

Maynard Akkerman, who owns the two buildings damaged by the dump truck, was on-scene to assess damage Monday afternoon. He said he wasn’t ready to call the insurance building a complete loss, despite the gaping hole caused by the dump truck. Akkerman added that he was happy no one was inside either building, but he knew the crash was still substantial.

“It’s just very unfortunate,” he said.

Reporter Trisha Marczak contributed to this report