UPDATE: Fatal crash in Minneapolis involving Beartown Firefighters

Photo courtesy of KARE-TV 11
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BLAINE, Minn. (WLUC) - UPDATE: 11:43 p.m. 8/27/2016

TV6 has confirmed Beartown Firefighters of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community were involved a fatal crash in Blaine, Minnesota on Saturday.

Police say two people were killed and several others were seriously injured in the crash. The accident involved a vehicle with nine occupants, and happened on Interstate 35W at 95th Avenue around 3 p.m. CST.

MnDOT reports the truck was Southbound on 35W near 95th Ave, and left the roadway for an unknown reason. The truck then struck the median cable barriers, and rolled over. According to MnDOT, that section of the freeway was closed in both directions until 7:30 p.m. CST.

According to MnDOT, Michael A. Johnson (29) of Baraga was the driver, and Dave R. Varline (26) of Baraga, Robert A. Shawa of L'Anse, Ross J. Jaukkuri (33) of Baraga, Gavin C. Loonsfoot (34) of Baraga, Tyler J. Tolonen (26) of Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Joseph Jossens of Michigan, and Shashaywin D. Sandman Shelifoe (29), of Minnesota, were all passengers in the vehicle. Physical conditions of each person involved is unknown at this time.

According to Minnesota State Police, all injured firefighters are expected to recover.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community has release a statement Saturday night regarding the fatal accident of Beartown Firefighters in Blaine, Minnesota.

"The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community learned this evening that our Beartown Firefighting crew was involved in a tragic traffic accident. Two of our fire fighters were killed and several others were severely injured. Our hearts are broken and our prayers are with the family members and those injured.

We are continuing to gather information on the condition of each and every fire fighter who was sent to the Box Canyon fire. It has been difficult due to privacy laws. If any family members have questions, please contact the Tribal Police Department 353-6626.

There will also be staff at the Tribal Center to process Emergency Medical Travel beginning tonight. Family needing assistance should contact Larry Denomie at 201-0631.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the families."

An official from the KBIC has told TV6 many of the victims involved in the accident come from low income families. The KBIC has already begun planning a fundraiser to benefit the families affected by this accident. A spaghetti dinner and 50/50 raffle fundraiser will be held at the L’Anse VFW, Monday August 29th at 5:30 p.m.

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The Star Tribune, a newspaper out of Minneapolis, reports Warren “Chris” Swartz, president of the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community, confirmed there has been a fatal crash involving one of their vehicles in Blaine, Minnesota.

Police say two people were killed and several others were seriously injured in a crash in Blaine Saturday afternoon. The crash involved a vehicle with nine occupants, and happened on Interstate 35W at 95th Avenue around 3 p.m. CST.

According to the Star Tribune, photos on social media show a vehicle with logos similar to those of the Beartown Firefighters. Beartown Firefighters is a firefighting crew based out of Baraga and is managed by the KBIC and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Officials from the KBIC have confirmed to TV6 that the crew was on their way to a wildfire in Utah.

An official from the KBIC has told TV6 many of the victims involved in the accident come from low income families. The KBIC has already begun planning a fundraiser to benefit the families affected by this accident. A spaghetti dinner and 5/50 raffle fundraiser will be held at the L’Anse VFW, Monday August 29th at 5:30 p.m.

This is a developing story, and TV6 will have more information as it becomes available.

L'Anse VFW:
105 N. Front St., L'Anse, Michigan 49946



 
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