A man with local connections has been charged after a tragic collision that claimed three generations of family members on Highway 12 in Kandiyohi County on Friday, Aug. 17.
Paul Wickenhauser, 21, of Norwood Young America (later reports placed his address in Cokato), was driving a 2004 Chevy Silverado, which struck a 2001 Town and Country minivan head on at about 9 p.m. east of Willmar, according to the accident report from the Minnesota State Patrol and a press release from the Kandiyohi County Attorney. The van went into the ditch and began to burn.
Three passengers in the van, all family members, were killed. The driver, 68-year-old Marta Stoffers of Atwater, died along with her 40-year-old daughter-in-law Michelle Hoffman of Eden Prairie and Hoffman’s daughter, 8-year-old Julia Hoffman. Another passenger, 5-year-old Jason Hoffman, was critically injured in the collision.
Wickenhauser, who was treated at the scene and medically released, was being held in the Kandiyohi County Jail and was scheduled to appear in court at 11 a.m. on Tuesday on three counts of criminal vehicular homicide and a fourth count of criminal vehicle injury.
According to the Kandiyohi County Jail roster, charges were also pending for crossing the centerline and open bottle.
“Law enforcement officers noted that Wickenhauser had the odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath and that his eyes were bloodshot. There was a broken alcohol container on the roadway and a bottle of rum in the cab of the pick up,” said county attorney Jennifer Kurud Fischer. “There was a cooler with alcoholic beverages in the cargo area of the pickup. Wickenhauser admitted to consuming alcoholic beverages prior to driving that evening.”
Wickenhauser graduated from Central High School in Norwood Young America in 2010, and for future plans had listed attending Ridgewater College in Willmar for Agriculture.
The Hoffman family of six was reportedly spending the summer with relatives in Minnesota and were planning to return soon to Oman in the Middle East, where they worked at the American International School of Muscat.