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Accident injures 2 people; Hwy. 71 closes for hours

Fire and rescue squads respond Tuesday to the scene of a two-vehicle accident west of New London that closed U.S. Highway 71 for several hours. Tribune photo by Carolyn Lange

NEW LONDON -- An accident Tuesday involving a semi and PT Cruiser sent two people to the hospital and closed U.S. Highway 71 and Kandiyohi County Road 40 near New London for several hours.

The semi's operator, Rene Vela, 51, of Mission, Texas, was airlifted from the scene to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis with non-life threatening injuries. Marjorie Swanson, 88, of Willmar, who was travelling in the PT Cruiser, was transported by ground ambulance to Rice Memorial Hospital in Willmar with unknown injuries.

Few details were available on the cause of the accident, which occurred around 4:37 p.m. However, the State Patrol said it appeared the semi was travelling north on Highway 71 while the PT Cruiser was travelling on County Road 40 toward Willmar. Both vehicles ended up in the ditch on opposite sides of Highway 71.

The semi, which was hauling turkey manure, overturned in the embankment. The cab was twisted and crushed, and rescue crews spent more than an hour working to free Vela.

Less than a minute after a LifeLink helicopter departed with Vela aboard, an ambulance sped from the scene a couple miles south to 165th Avenue, where another semi had overturned into a ditch.

There was no immediate information available on that accident, which remains under investigation.

County Road 40 reopened to traffic at about 6:30 p.m. However, Highway 71 was closed until around 9 p.m.

The State Patrol, New London Fire Department, New London Ambulance, Willmar Ambulance, Kandiyohi County Rescue Squad, Kandiyohi County Sheriff's Office and LifeLink responded to the scene. Crews from the Minnesota Department of Transportation were also on hand to spread sand on the highway to absorb diesel fuel that had sprayed from the semi.

Carolyn Lange

A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers regional news with the West Central Tribune.

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