Tragic lesson: Landscape company owner arrested for killing two women with errant boulder

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Updated Jul 21, 2018

Like it or not, the trucking industry came under fire following the viral news story of a woman and her adult daughter being crushed to death by a boulder that had fallen off a landscape truck and demolished their car in Rosemount, Minnesota.

The man driving the truck, 33-year-old Czeck Services owner Joseph Czeck, was located and arrested Friday nearly a week after police kept following up on several leads. He was charged with four felony counts of criminal vehicular homicide.

Rosemount police initially reported that Czeck may not have been aware that an 1,100-pound rock had even fallen off his truck last Monday while he was driving southbound on Rich Valley Boulevard just west of Highway 52.

What?! Did he think his truck’s sudden uptick in acceleration was owed to an unbelievably strong tail wind? Sorry, but it would be really hard not noticing the loss of something that heavy.

Police now feel that way, too, and have since revised their findings in a criminal complaint against Czeck who was tracked down and arrested after police talked to witnesses and reviewed surveillance video from nearby businesses.

“After the truck crossed over some railroad tracks, an unsecured boulder flew out of the back of the truck,” police wrote in their complaint. “The boulder bounced into the southbound lane, crossed the centerline and bounced into the northbound lane where it crashed into the windshield of the car driven by Karen Christiansen. The truck did not stop at the crash scene.”

No, unfortunately it did not. Citing additional video surveillance and witness accounts, police say Czeck did stop about a mile later in a driveway. At that point a man was seen getting out of the truck and tying down boulders. The truck left the driveway and stopped again on a nearby street for about two minutes before driving off.

Police say Czeck never contacted them.

A contractor who police say had loaded the boulders identified Czeck’s truck in a photo taken from surveillance video. The contractor said Czeck was supposed to return last Monday at 5 p.m. to pick up more boulders but never came.

The bouncing boulder that fell off Czeck’s truck hit Christiansen’s Toyota Avalon so hard that it went right through it and sent glass flying into the air, according to a witness. Christiansen, 67, was killed alongside her daughter, Jena Christiansen, age 32.

Czeck’s alleged mistake in not tying down the 1,100-pound rock not only left two people dead, it’s left people across the U.S. angry and frightened.

“This is one of my biggest fears,” one person posted on ABCNews YouTube channel. “My brother gives me hell over how terrified I am of trucks hauling stuff, but it’s such a legitimate fear. This is so horrible. My prayers are with the family. RIP.”

“Doesn’t matter if it seems secure, don’t ride behind trucks,” another writes.

“I was behind a truck when a large aluminum ladder came off, bounced on the road and launched over my car. I was lucky. Be careful when following trucks. Condolences to this grieving family,” another posted.

Similar comments are posted on Rosemount Police Department’s Facebook page.

“Tragic! I see so many things flying off trucks on Hwy 52. I was hit with a 10-12’ fluorescent tube once, rocks from si-dumper vehicles, junkers with stuff loaded higher than the top of their trucks. This is a horrible reminder that things can go very wrong, very quickly,” writes a user.

“This is literally one of my biggest fears when driving!” another user comments. “Every time I’m behind a semi or any type of truck with rocks or wooden board or metal rods on it I get super uncomfortable and try to get into the next lane as quickly and safely as possible.”

AAA reports that between 2011-2014, there were over 500 deaths, 39,000 injuries and 200,000 crashes attributed to road debris. While it’s not clear how many of those incidents were traced to commercial trucks, it’s clear that taking the time to safely secure a load can save lives and prevent the sort of headlines that look bad for the entire industry.