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Cosmos man charged for causing severe accident in Renville County

OLIVIA — A Cosmos man is accused of grabbing the steering wheel of a car driven by his girlfriend and causing an accident that severely injured the woman, as well as himself, while causing minor injuries to five children also in the vehicle.

Damon Dwight Wiederhoft, 28, was arraigned Monday in Renville County District Court on felony first-degree assault, two felony counts of criminal vehicular operation — great bodily harm, and five gross misdemeanor charges of child endangerment.

The criminal complaint alleges that Wiederhoft was a front-seat passenger in a vehicle involved in the accident at 7:05 p.m. July 30 near the intersection of 870th Avenue and 580th Street in Renville County.

The driver of the car and defendant were both ejected from the vehicle and suffered severe trauma. The female driver was airlifted to Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis and was in a coma and on a ventilator for several days, according to the complaint. She suffered a left orbital blowout fracture to the eye socket, a shattered spleen, collapsed lung, six spinal fractures and blockage of her left renal artery.

The children were secured in safety restraints and suffered only minor injuries. Investigators determined the vehicle was traveling at 62 miles per hour approximately five seconds before the airbags deployed.

The complaint states Wiederhoft was arguing with the woman driving the car and grabbed the steering wheel and turned the vehicle, causing it to crash.

According to the complaint, the woman was upset with Wiederhoft for consuming alcohol when his probation prohibited it. He had a blood alcohol content of 0.143 percent when collected four hours after the accident, according to the complaint.

A test of the driver's blood found no trace of alcohol, according to the complaint.

The court calendar shows Wiederhoft is next scheduled to be in court Jan. 19.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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