Authorities ID Victim of Fatal Crash in Lake Elmo

March 01, 2018 03:06 PM

The Minnesota State Patrol has identified the victim of a fatal crash that shut down the eastbound lanes of Highway 36 in Lake Elmo for several hours Tuesday afternoon.

He was 54-year-old Robert J. Bursik, of Amery, Wisconsin. 

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Bursik was a biology instructor at North Hennepin Community College in Brooklyn Park.

RELATED: Semi Driver was Looking at Phone at Time of Fatal Lake Elmo Crash, Charges Say

A statement from the school reads:

Rob will be greatly missed by his colleagues, our students, and our campus community. He has touched the lives of so many, and will be remembered for his passion for the sciences, his commitment to students, and his ability to inspire those around him. 

He was also a business owner in Amery, Wisconsin, where he started Dragonfly Gardens Greenhouse and Nursery.

On Wednesday his company announced his unexpected passing on Facebook.

RELATED: State Patrol: Portion of Highway 36 Reopens After Fatal Crash

Bursik was killed when the 2015 Toyota Scion he was driving, stopped at a red light at Highway 36 and Lake Elmo Avenue North, was struck from behind by a 2016 Freightliner semitrailer, according to the state patrol incident report.

The crash occurred about 12:15 p.m. The eastbound lanes of Highway 36 were closed and traffic was rerouted near the scene of the crash until about 4:30 p.m.



The driver of the semi was 28-year-old Samuel Wayne Hicks, according to the report. Hicks was uninjured.

Authorities allege he had his eyes on his cell phone for the eight seconds preceding the crash, according to charges filed Wednesday in Washington County.

Hicks now faces one count of criminal vehicular homicide, a felony carrying a maximum of 10 years in prison and/or $20,000 in fines. 

Authorities said they planned to review video from a Minnesota Department of Transportation traffic management camera located at the intersection.

MNDOT said Highway 36 between the St. Croix crossing and Interstate 694 hosts roughly 30,000 vehicles daily.

Washington County said it's only gotten busier since the bridge opened nearly seven months ago.

"We haven't seen a statistical bump-up, but certainly with that crash yesterday, it's critical for us to be looking at safety improvements," said Wayne Sandberg of Washington County Public Works.

Sandberg said from Century Avenue east to the river, there are seven traffic signals. Four of them will be removed and changes made, likely by putting overpasses in with on and off ramps.

The work at Hadley Avenue will start next year, and take two years at a cost of roughly $25 million, Sandberg said.

Manning Avenue work is slated to begin in 2023.

Century Avenue and Lake Elmo Avenue, where the deadly crash occurred Tuesday, will also see changes. But Sandberg said there's no timeline yet for when work will begin.

"These major infrastructure projects take time they need to be planned for and budgeted for," he said. "Unfortunately we're not all there yet, but we will be there, we're working toward getting these done."

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Michael Oakes and Jessica Miles

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