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Trucker hit slowed traffic at highway speed, caused fiery pileup and was among 2 killed

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A fiery and deadly seven-vehicle crash on Interstate 94 in western Wisconsin was triggered when a trucker traveling “at highway speed” slammed into a string of vehicles that had slowed for a construction zone ahead, officials said Tuesday.

The pileup that occurred shortly before 5:40 p.m. Monday on westbound Interstate 94 south of Wilson and 28 miles east of the Minnesota border claimed two lives and injured six other people, according to the Wisconsin State Patrol.

Killed were the driver of the semitrailer truck and the motorist in a pickup truck that was the first vehicle struck, the patrol said in an update released late Tuesday morning. The injured were treated at the scene and did not require hospitalization, added the patrol, which has yet to release the identities of any vehicle occupants.

A fair amount of the burning wreckage ended up below the interstate overpass for Hwy. 128. State transportation officials later closed the overpass for a safety inspection and reopened it to traffic midday Tuesday.

Troopers responding to the scene told emergency dispatch that it was not immediately clear what the semis were hauling, but one of them reported that “I do have lots of little explosions going on inside.”

The patrol’s update noted that westbound traffic had been backing up because of a construction zone 2 12 miles from the crash scene.

The semi driver was “traveling at highway speed, failed to identify the slowed traffic ahead” and struck the pickup and a second semi, the patrol’s update read. Four other vehicles were caught up in the chain-reaction crash, the patrol added.

State Department of Transportation video shows the semi heading toward a line of vehicles that were moving much more slowly before the big rig plowed into the back of the pickup truck and the other semi.

A fiery explosion burst from the second semi and the pickup. An SUV in the left lane was then hit by the crushed pickup.

The vehicles rolled out of view of the camera as a trail of flames was left on the pavement.

About 4 minutes later, the traffic camera revealed the heavy black smoke enveloping the overpass as both semis and other vehicles continued to burn.

Staff writer Louis Krauss contributed to this report.



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Traffic disrupted but no injuries reported after BNSF freight train derails near Big Lake, Minn.

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A train derailment near Big Lake is disrupting traffic and slowing the train company’s main line Saturday.

According to the Sherburne County Sheriff’s Office, the BNSF train was carrying consumer goods when it derailed around 3:15 a.m. At least 15 rail cars were involved, blocking the crossing at 172nd Street NW. between 197th Avenue and County Rd. 14.

A BNSF representative confirmed the derailment and said crews were working “as quickly and safely as possible” to clear the wreckage.

The cause of the derailment is under investigation. No injuries have been reported, and the Sheriff’s Office said there was no threat to the public. It’s unclear what goods the train carried, or when crews expected to clear the wreckage.

A broken rail track caused a BNSF train derailment in Raymond, Minn., last year, spilling ethanol and corn syrup, which caught fire. Hundreds living nearby were forced to evacuate. Estimates at that time suggested repairing damage to railroad tracks and equipment at $1.9 million. The environmental cleanup was estimated to cost $1.6 million.



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The VA wants your help picking a name for a new clinic for female veterans

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Blueprints for the new Women’s Clinic at the Minneapolis VA have almost everything.

The new clinic space will be airy and accessible, with room for a dizzying array of veteran health services, from lactation consultation to cancer screenings. After years of planning, the groundbreaking is set for September at the Veterans Affairs Health Center.

All the clinic needs now is a name.

The VA is hoping for the public’s help on that one.

If you know a veteran, living or deceased, who served her country and her community, the VA is accepting nominations until Oct. 30.

The naming committee will be looking for veterans who were honorably discharged and who had a connection to the Minneapolis VA or the Midwest region it serves.

Maybe the honor will go to a towering figure from state history. Maybe it will go to a living legend like 101-year-old World War II veteran Marion Peck of Le Sueur, a finalist for the 2024 SilverSneakers Member of the Year award. We’ll find out if she wins on July 22.

“She did squats for me, the first time I met her,” said Dr. Alisa Duran, VA women’s health medical director. “With our aging veterans, you always do sort of a ‘get up and go’ evaluation and look at how they walk and ask about falls. And she’s like, ‘Watch this!’… We see a lot of our veterans out in the community doing really cool things.”

Women are the fastest-growing group within the VA — the number of women veterans has tripled since 2001. The Minneapolis VA Health Care System served more than 7,000 women veterans last year alone. But the clinic space that greeted them was less than they deserved.

The current Women’s Clinic sits in an old ICU deep inside the sprawling Minneapolis campus. Veterans had to thread through a series of corridors, waiting rooms and unrelated departments to reach the clinic.

Beyond an inconvenience, not having direct access to care could be a painful barrier for patients dealing with service-related trauma. One out of every three women veterans reports that they experienced sexual harassment or assault during their time in the military. The new facility will allow them to walk in directly from the parking lot, without facing the crowds inside the larger complex.

A great deal of thought will go into the new facility. The new mammogram suites will allow veterans to control the compression of a procedure that can trigger anxiety. The Women’s Clinic treats women still in their childbearing years, women going through menopause, all the way up to the Greatest Generation, still going strong at 101 like Marion Peck.

“I loved the Navy,” Peck said during a recent VA interview about her SilverSneakers competition. “If they’d take a 101-year-old I’d be on an aircraft carrier tomorrow.”

For veterans who were exposed to toxic environments like burn pits during their service, the clinic is expanding cancer screenings for at-risk groups. The new clinic space will have room for classrooms and support groups to meet. There will be social workers and specialists and counselors on hand to help new mothers — veterans can be at higher risk of postpartum depression — through the first year.

A clinic this good is going to need a good name.

“We wanted this new clinic space to represent our women veterans,” Duran said. “I think one of the best ways to do that is to name it in honor of one of our female veterans.”

The name that goes above the clinic door won’t necessarily be the veteran with the highest rank or highest profile. The committee that chooses the name will include a number of women veterans, and they know the qualities they’re looking for.

The woman whose name goes on the building will be someone whose life is an example of “service beyond their years of military service,” said Emma O’Brien, women veterans program manager. “Of course they’ll want to know about what accolades they had while they were on military duty, but also how they’ve continued to serve their community beyond that.”

Anyone who follows the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s annual snowplow naming contest knows how much Minnesotans enjoy naming things.

Last year, the St. Cloud VA Healthcare system set out to rename a hallway in honor of one of central Minnesota’s women veterans. They received two dozen nominations. The honor went to the late Paynesville native Winnifred “Winnie” Galbraith, who served in the Women’s Army Corps during WWII and went on to long years of service with American Legion posts in Little Falls and Waite Park.

The first nomination came in hours after the VA put out the call.

“This went out yesterday and I received one yesterday afternoon. They were ready,” O’Brien said. “I’m not surprised. I’ve had several people, male and female veterans, tell me, ‘You should name the new clinic after so-and-so.’ Everyone has someone they think it should be named after.”

Construction is expected to begin in September and the new clinic should open in 2026. If you know a good name for the new clinic, you can download the nomination form at va.gov/minneapolis-health-care/health-services/women-veteran-care.

If Marion Peck’s name doesn’t end up on the building, maybe we can get a statue of her out front, in silver sneakers.



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SWAT standoff in Edina ends peacefully

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A four-hour standoff Saturday morning between a suspect and a SWAT team in a residential area in Edina ended peacefully, authorities said.

According to a news release from the Edina Police Department, officers were sent to a disturbance on the 5100 block of Schaefer Road at about 8 a.m. After learning the suspect could be armed and dangerous, they shut down the area and called in the SWAT team and negotiators “out of abundance of caution.”

After negotiations with Edina police, the subject peacefully surrendered at 12:30 p.m. Several agencies assisted in the incident, which remains under investigation.



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