The Free Press, Mankato, MN

January 17, 2013

Family expresses anger over road safety after one-car fatality

By Brian Ojanpa
The Free Press

EAGLE LAKE — The family of a 17-year-old Eagle Lake girl killed in a one-car accident Wednesday said guardrails should have been installed on the road curve that Hannah Gamble's vehicle slid off.

"We're very angry," Hannah's mother Heather said of that portion of Blue Earth County Road 28 east of Eagle Lake that, ironically, was where Gamble's other daughter, 16-year-old Taylor, maneuvered her car out of a skid about 30 minutes before Hannah skidded likewise but plunged down a steep embankment to her death.

Heather Gamble said Hannah's best friend, fellow St. Clair High School junior Abbi Malecha, and her brother Zach Malecha also skidded off that curve last winter but escaped serious injury when a tree stopped their car from plunging down the embankment.

It was Zach Malecha who found Hannah's car Wednesday afternoon after he heard she hadn't shown up for school. Malecha's mother Corey Schultze said her son intuitively knew where to look.

Schultze said she called county officials after the incident last year to complain about lack of safety measures on that curve.

"There's no reason there shouldn't be guardrails there," she said.

Blue Earth County Engineer Al Forsberg said that portion of road will be investigated and county staff awaits results of law enforcement's investigation of Wednesday's accident.

Roads in the Mankato area Wednesday morning were ice-slickened due to temperatures that hovered around freezing.

Sgt. Jacalyn Sticha of the State Patrol said officers responded to several incidents of vehicles rolling off roadways.

Her advice to motorists on such days: Be aware of temperature and moisture conditions and know that ice patches can occur intermittently along roads.

She said if your vehicle begins to go into a slide, don't lay on the brakes.

"Brakes are not your first go-to, depending on your speed."

If brakes must be employed, apply them slowly and gently, pull off the gas pedal and steer in the direction you want to go.