Two years later, charges filed in crash that killed South St. Paul couple

A Roseville man was charged Tuesday in the fatal crash that killed a South St. Paul couple in 2019. Fred Tamu Fonji, 48, was charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the deaths of Will and Cully Craig, ages 47 and 48 respectively. The couple had set out Oct. 17, 2019, to tour […]

Two years later, charges filed in crash that killed South St. Paul couple

A Roseville man was charged Tuesday in the fatal crash that killed a South St. Paul couple in 2019.

Fred Tamu Fonji, 48, was charged with two counts of criminal vehicular homicide in the deaths of Will and Cully Craig, ages 47 and 48 respectively.

The couple had set out Oct. 17, 2019, to tour the fall colors along the Mississippi River and were traveling west on Minnesota Highway 55 in Rosemount, when they were rear-ended by a dump truck that pushed their car into the back of a semi-truck.

According to the criminal complaint, about 12:20 p.m., a Minnesota State Trooper was en route to the crash site. He saw a semi-truck angled from the eastbound lane across the westbound lane.

As he drove closer, he saw a dump truck next to the semi, along with a crushed passenger vehicle between the two. A pick-up truck was in the ditch.

The trooper located the drivers of the semi-truck, dump truck, and pick-up truck before going back to the passenger vehicle where he saw a woman, later identified as Colette or “Cully” Craig, outside of the vehicle, partly pinned inside. She initially had a faint pulse, but within a few seconds, it weakened and stopped, the complaint states. She was pronounced dead at the scene.

William Craig was found in the driver’s seat of the vehicle after the tow truck arrived to extricate the vehicle from the semi. He also was pronounced dead at the scene.

WITNESS TOLD LAW ENFORCEMENT HE HAD TO VEER INTO DITCH TO AVOID COLLISION

A witness told police that he was heading west on Highway 55 when he saw the semi-truck waiting to turn left onto Doyle Path. The Craigs’ car and the pick-up truck were slowing or stopped behind the semi-truck. The witness said the dump truck was approaching at what appeared to be the 55 mph speed limit, but did not slow down as it approached the stopped vehicles, the complaint states.

The witness told police he had to veer into the ditch to avoid a head-on collision.

The driver of the dump truck, identified as Fonji, was tested but had neither alcohol nor controlled substance in his system, according to the complaint.

In the course of the investigation, police learned that Fonji had a habit of being on his phone while driving and had been warned by another employee to put his phone away, the complaint states.

The investigation was hindered as the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension did not have the appropriate software to analyze the phone. In September of 2020, the software was updated and the phone examined. The software was able to determine that Fonji received two messages during that time, but unable to determine if he had opened or viewed them, according to the complaint.

“Ultimately, the primary contributing factor to the crash was the defendant’s failure to slow and/or stop for the traffic ahead of him,” the complaint states. “The reconstruction report was completed before the cell phone had been analyzed but noted that upon review of the data, a secondary factor could be the defendant’s distraction by a cell phone.”

On Tuesday, William Craig, father of Will Craig, offered his thanks to law enforcement.

“We appreciate the efforts of the State Patrol, the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and the Dakota County Attorney to get to this point,” Craig said. “We can only hope that something will be done to prevent the driver from causing such unbearable loss to another family.”

COUPLE HAD TWO COLLEGE-AGED SONS

The couple left behind two college-aged sons. Lifelong Minnesotans, Will and Cully met at church and married in 1996 in Roseville.

Will was the executive director of operations of True North Consulting Group, working on audio/visual projects. Cully also worked part time for the company in accounting and human resources and was a home-school mom.

Together, the family was involved in the Civil Air Patrol, a volunteer-run auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force. Will had risen to the rank of major and Cully, who often cooked at the encampment activities for the young cadets, was first lieutenant. Both of their sons, James and Liam, participated.

The couple also were also involved for many years with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Carleton College and were supportive of several Christian activities on campus.

Fonji was charged by warrant. His name had not yet appeared on the Dakota County Jail roster, and no attorney had been listed for him as of Tuesday afternoon. His record shows one DWI conviction, one guilty plea in a DUI and one petty misdemeanor conviction for an incident in which his truck struck overhead signs and closed Hwy 36 down for hours, the citation states.