Created: August 06, 2020 11:48 PM
(ABC 6 News)-- A year after one of the deadliest crashes in Minnesota history, the completed report reveals investigators got it wrong.
Preliminary reports from the deadly crash on August 2, 2019 indicated 54-year-old Sheila Eagle was driving the wrong way on Interstate-90.
In her car was her 29-year-old daughter Tamara and 11-year-old grand-daughter Nyobee Eagle Richardson. The other car carried another family of three. All six people were killed.
However, according to the newly released Minnesota State Patrol investigative report obtained by ABC 6 News, Sheila Eagle was in fact, driving the right way.
"We wanted to provide information as quickly and accurately as possible, and at the time it was preliminary investigation and at that time we believed that was the correct answer," said Sergeant Troy Christianson with Minnesota State Patrol.
"We had a hard time determining which car was going in which direction so what we were able to determine through the investigation is we used cell phones and we used data points within cell phones to determine that the Chrysler was traveling the wrong way," said Christianson.
Investigators used GPS to track Eagle's route. She made a stop at a Kwik Trip in La Crosse and then continued to travel west bound on Interstate 90 when her car was hit head on by a car driven by 26- year-old Christopher Peterson of Rochester. GPS information located his car leaving a rest stop going the wrong way.
"The Marion rest area is this way and the driver of the Chrysler which was traveling eastbound in the westbound lanes was under the influence of a constrolled substance at the time of a crash," said Christianson as he pointed on a diagram how Peterson entered the interstate.
"So there was definitely impairment on him and that's possibly what led him to drive east bound on westbound traffic," added Christianson.
Relatives say Eagle and her passengers were on their way to South Dakota for a funeral when they were killed. The news that she was traveling the wrong way just didn't make sense for Linda Beatty.
Beatty is victim Nyobee Richardson's other grandmother. For the past year she has pressed investigators for answers.
"I'm mostly upset with the fact that the first responding Lieutenant I believe automatically assumed it was Sheila's fault, Sheila got blamed and this is why I want to do this, it wasn't Sheila's fault," said Beatty.
The mangled mess was difficult for first responders to comprehend right away both physically and mentally. Hours of mapping the scene to months of interviewing witnesses and expert analysis led to this new information. But Beatty said the old scars are still there.
"We were just in shock, on every news story, they would totally attack Sheila, and we just kept going on there to say it was an accident, the investigation wasn't completed yet," said Beatty. "I understand the pain on the other family, but we were in pain too and we didn't attack them, we treated them with respect."
Beatty said people even went as far as reporting their GoFundMe page for funeral expenses.
Despite the difficult year, Beatty is just happy to clear Sheila's name and while this will never bring any of them back, she hopes its a reminder to us all.
"Think before you speak, before you type, and try to have some kind of heart especially at this time right now with what we're all going through."
Beatty says relatives of the other victims in the crash did try to pursue a lawsuit against the Eagle family. However she is not sure where it stands now with this new information. Beatty also said she'd like an apology from the Minnesota State Patrol for releasing wrong information. According to Christianson with State Patrol, he said the agency will reach out to the families, but there is no word on whether or not that will include an apology.
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