Patrol reveals why deadly fire consumed woman’s van on busy Eden Prairie hwy.
Investigators say a drivers choice not to have a flat tire fixed is why deadly flames consumed her minivan moments later on an Eden Prairie highway and forced her to fleeing the burning vehicle while it was still moving.
The State Patrol released its conclusions this week about the chain-reaction circumstances surrounding the van fire that sent belching smoke skyward above Hwy. 5/212 over the weekday lunch hour on April 25, creating a spectacle in an area packed with stores, restaurants and other businesses.
Susan Clark, 66, of Eden Prairie, was taken by ambulance to HCMC, where she died that day.
For the roughly nine weeks since her death, her three children, two sisters and other relatives have wondered why the vehicle caught fire in an instant.
I hope we can find an answer for some closure, Clarks sister, Kathleen Raab, said several days before patrol disclosed its findings.
The patrol determined that a piece of the left rear tire flew up and damaged the space just below the fuel cap and ignited a small amount of gasoline in that spot.
The van kept going east and soon grazed a median barrier and veered onto a grassy area, where Clark abandoned the burning vehicle as it kept rolling.
Patrol Lt. Tiffani Nielson said Clark visited a tire shop earlier that afternoon and got an estimate for new tires and was asked about having her flat tire fixed. She told a store employee she wanted to check with someone first before deciding what to do, Nielson said. She drove away on that flat tire.
Possibly having decided on having the tire fixed, Nielson said, Clark was heading back toward the tire store when the flames and smoke engulfed her van.
Paul Walsh 612-673-4482