Patrol: Driver putting away phone crashed into car, killed 2

Published 8:45 am Wednesday, September 19, 2018

CLAREMONT — A 24-year-old man was putting away his cellphone when he crashed a Hummer into a car stopped on a highway in southern Minnesota, killing an elementary school teacher and her 8-year-old daughter, the State Patrol said.

Authorities said Rachel Harberts, 43, of Dodge Center was stopped on Highway 14 in Claremont on Sept. 7, waiting to turn left, when her car was struck from behind by the Hummer.

Harberts died Saturday at a Rochester hospital. Her daughter, Emerson, also died in the crash, and her 12-year-old son, Jaxon, suffered life-threatening injuries.

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The Dodge Center man who was driving the Hummer was unhurt. According to a search warrant affidavit filed by the State Patrol, he told authorities he was looking down at the console to put away his phone when he rear-ended the other car, the Star Tribune reported .

A State Patrol spokeswoman, Lt. Tiffani Nielsen, said Tuesday the investigation remains open.

Rachel Harberts taught first grade at Blooming Prairie Elementary School and coached volleyball in Blooming Prairie, according to her obituary. She and her children were heading to school the morning of the crash.

A combined funeral for Harberts and her daughter is scheduled Thursday in Rochester. The Blooming Prairie School District announced on its website classes are canceled for that day.

An online fundraising campaign has been started to help the family with medical and funeral expenses.