A wrong-way driver was killed about 12:30 p.m. Friday when his Toyota Prius collided with a semi truck in the southbound lanes of U.S. Hwy. 61 two miles south of La Moille, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.
The semi caught fire after the collision and burned to its frame.
Hwy. 61 was closed for nearly 20 miles in both directions as fire and rescue crews from several area agencies battled the fire for more than an hour. Thick black smoke could be seen from miles away.
As the smoke dissipated, bits of charred debris could be seen littering the highway and nearby lawns for hundreds of feet on every side of the crash. The highway was charred for about 100 feet leading to the crash site.
Only the far back of the semi’s trailer--which was empty at the time of the crash, despite initial reports that it was carrying ammunition--remained when the fire was put out. The twisted remains of the Prius were lodged under the semi’s trailer.
The State Patrol said it plans to release the name of the Prius driver on Saturday.
The semi driver, Robert Siebenaler, 65, of Lewiston, was transported to Saint Marys Hospital in Rochester but had no apparent injuries, according to the Patrol. He was able to escape from his truck just before it caught fire, according to Winona County Sheriff Dave Brand.
Several agencies responded, including the Winona County Sheriff's Department, the State Patrol, and the Winona, Nodine, Pickwick, and Dakota fire departments. The City of Winona and La Crescent police departments assisted with traffic control.
The State Patrol is investigating the crash.