Man who drove van into river pleads not guilty to reckless driving

Published 7:47 am Thursday, December 2, 2010

The man who was cited with reckless driving after driving his van into the Cedar River Nov. 2 pleaded not guilty in Mower County Court Monday.

When the alleged incident took place, an Austin Utilities worker flagged down a police officer because a van had almost hit him and two county workers.

Police caught up with Ray Ronald Freese, 62, of Austin, who was driving the van, as he headed eastbound on Ninth Avenue Southeast and crossed First Avenue.

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At Fourth Street Southeast the van ran a stop sign, at which point the officer initiated a traffic stop. The van then accelerated and headed into Whittier Park, where it swerved around trees until it entered the river and rolled onto its passenger side just east of the Roosevelt Bridge.

The officer climbed into the driver’s side of the van and found Freese standing on the passenger door. Freese told the officer he didn’t know what just happened and that he saw the river coming but could not avoid it.

Although Freese appeared uninjured, he was taken to Austin Medical Center by ambulance as a precaution.

Freese will appear in court again for his pre-trial on Feb. 18.

Original article

Man drives van into Cedar River