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Police roll out a mangled reminder

Extra DWI enforcement planned this weekend, steele county, near me, owatonna, blooming prairie
The mangled wreckage of Kaitlyn Hansen’s vehicle is on display this week in Blooming Prairie. Hansen was a 16-year-old student at Fillmore Central High School who was killed by a drunk driver in January 2016 near Chatfield. Photo courtesy Blooming Prairie Police.
Extra DWI enforcement planned this weekend
Rick Bussler, Publisher

Sometimes seeing is believing and it can have more impact than any words can ever accomplish.

At least that’s what Officer Brad Busho of Blooming Prairie Police is hoping for this week in anticipation of the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

Busho rolled into Blooming Prairie Monday morning with the mangled wreckage of a vehicle driven by Kaitlyn Hansen, a 16-year-old junior from Fillmore Central High School who was killed by a drunk driver in January 2016 near Chatfield.

The vehicle will be a reminder of the dangers of impaired driving to motorists traveling through Blooming Prairie this week as it will be on display in the open field across from City Center. It will be moved to the empty lot on Main Street next to B to Z Hardware in time for this weekend’s street dance.

“We want it to be visible from over the fence at the beer garden (Saturday night),” Busho said. “The message is you’re not invincible and it can happen to you or your family member.”

The officer got the idea for the crash car after this spring’s mock car crash at Blooming Prairie High School. “I thought it would be nice to get something for the public to see,” said Busho, who has been patrolling Blooming Prairie since 2020. “We want to remind people to come and enjoy their time in town but do it responsibly.”

Hansen was driving on Highway 52 between Chatfield and Fountain on Jan. 28, 2016 when she crashed head-on into a pickup that crossed over the centerline. Cindy Mueske, 56, of Eyota was found to have been traveling at least 84 miles per hour when the crash occurred. Tests after the deadly wreck found Mueske had a blood alcohol level between .08 and .15 with marijuana in her system. She was later sentenced to four years in prison for criminal vehicular homicide.

Hansen’s vehicle has been used by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) to showcase the deadly consequences of getting behind the wheel drunk. The vehicle is used at festivals, fairs, celebrations and other community events throughout the region.

As Busho set up the display Monday, he looked at the twisted metal and said “you can’t help but feel for the family.” He added it makes him think of his own kids and keeping the roads safe.

“I’m just hoping it sends out a message of what can happen and that it can happen to anyone.”

Fourth of July, Busho said, is the biggest time throughout the year for drunken driving in the Blooming Prairie area as well as other parts of the state.

Because of the increase of drunken driving, local officers are teaming up with the Minnesota State Patrol this weekend for extra DWI enforcement. Extra officers will be patrolling the roadways around Blooming Prairie from Saturday until Monday.

Busho’s advice is pretty simple.

“Plan ahead for a sober cab, drink responsible and if you’ve been drinking, stay off the roadways.”

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