Report: Driver admits phone distraction before crash that killed teacher, daughter in S. Minn.

September 18, 2018

A motorist with a troubling driving history has admitted that his cellphone diverted his attention when he rammed his large SUV into the back of stopped car on a southern Minnesota road, killing the other driver and her young daughter, authorities said.

Rachel Harberts, 43, of Dodge Center, Minn., was taken off life support at a Rochester hospital on Saturday, eight days after the crash on Sept. 7 on Hwy. 14 in Claremont that killed her 8-year-old daughter Emerson Harberts and badly injured 12-year-old son Jaxon Harberts.

The driver of the SUV, Tanner R. Kruckeberg, 24, also of Dodge Center, was not injured. Potential charges await completion of the State Patrols investigation, which could take as long as 90 days from the date of the crash.

Kruckeberg admitted to authorities that he was looking down at the center console of his 4,700-pound Hummer H3 to put away his cellphone and then looked up as his vehicle rear-ended the Harberts much lighter car waiting to turn left off Hwy. 14 onto County Road 3, according to an investigative file obtained by Southern Minnesota Today.

A message was left Tuesday with Kruckeberg seeking his response.

Rachel Harberts was a lifelong Minnesotan and a first-grade teacher and junior high volleyball coach at Blooming Prairie School at the time of her death. She and her children were heading to school before the start of classes for all three of them that Friday. Emerson was a third-grader, and Jaxon is in seventh grade.

An online fundraising campaign has been started to help cover the familys medical and funeral expenses.

According to his driving record, Kruckeberg has been rolling up infractions in southern Minnesota starting when he was 16 years old through April of this year, when he was cited for going 89 miles per hour in a 70 mph zone.

He was convicted in 2014 for using his cellphone while driving. Hes also been convicted at least nine times for speeding and three times for driving while his license was suspended. His license was valid at the time of the crash, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

Kruckeberg also has four convictions for underage drinking and one for illicit drug possession.

Paul Walsh 612-673-4482

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