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Southern MN family left to wonder if highway improvements could have saved little girl

“Hug those loved ones tight,” says Flowers, “because you just never know when they’re going to be taken away from you.”

Posted: Sep. 12, 2018 3:56 PM
Updated: Sep. 13, 2018 7:50 AM

CLAREMONT, Minn. – Rachel Harberts and her two children were on their way to school Friday.

They were waiting on Highway 14 to turn left onto County Road 3 and were struck from behind, killing Emerson Harberts.

“You don’t expect it, especially when you just see someone three days ago and you had plans to go boating that weekend,” says Rachel’s sister-in law Kelsy Flowers. “You just don’t think that’s going to happen.”

Flowers says she’s left wondering if she could have done something to prevent the collision and save her eight-year-old niece’s life.

“You read comments like, it happens all the time on that County Road E and there needs to be a turn off,” says Flowers. “That’s why they started making Highway 14 a four-lane the whole way and that’s the last section that’s a two-lane from Dodge Center to Owatonna.”

Earlier this year, the Minnesota Department of Transportation received more funding for the Highway 14 expansion project. The MnDOT map shows it will expand the highway to four lanes from Owatonna to Dodge Center, a move that looks to improve safety and mobility but can’t ensure it.

“If you move a vehicle out of the main traveling lane,” says Mike Dougherty of MnDOT, “ that does reduce risk but then it gets back to how attentive are the drivers ,what are the conditions, can everybody see, is everybody traveling at a safe speed?”

The first roadblock for the $143 million project was funding. Now, it’s time as construction will start either next fall or the following spring and take two years to complete…a wait that has the Harberts family wanting to remind others to never take life for granted.

“Hug those loved ones tight,” says Flowers, “because you just never know when they’re going to be taken away from you.”

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