Man charged after trailer broke free and killed 2 on motorcycle

Paul Walsh
Star Tribune

A man whose farm trailer broke free from a tractor southwest of the Twin Cities and fatally struck a vacationing couple on a motorcycle neglected to use the correct connecting device and did not have two safety options engaged, according to felony charges.

Curtis M. Petzel, 60, of Arlington Township, Minn., was charged on Aug. 23 in Sibley County District Court with second-degree manslaughter, criminal vehicular homicide, reckless driving and careless driving in connection with the deaths of Marvin D. Fandrich, 60, and Kathy L. Fandrich, 61, of Aberdeen, S.D.

The incident occurred on the afternoon of June 1 on Hwy. 19 in Arlington Township, about 20 miles west of Belle Plaine, the State Patrol said. The Fandriches were riding on one of three motorcycles in a group, the State Patrol said.

This was the second fatal crash Petzel had caused in less than two years, according to court records, and both resulted in motorcyclists being killed. The two wrecks occurred about 7 miles from each other.

In August 2017 in Gaylord, Petzel drove his pickup truck into the back of a car and sent that vehicle in front of a motorcycle heading the other way. The collision killed Brian R. Severin, 59, of Gaylord. The car’s driver survived her injuries. Petzel was convicted of misdemeanor careless driving and was sentenced to two days in jail, a year’s probation, community service and fined $400.

In this latest fatal incident, Petzel was charged by summons and ordered back to court on Sept. 12. Messages were left on Aug. 26 with Petzel seeking his response to the allegations.

According to the criminal complaint:

The three motorcycles were riding from Aberdeen to the Treasure Island Resort and Casino near Red Wing, and Petzel was heading west on his tractor. As Petzel drew near, his empty livestock trailer broke away and hit the Fandriches’ eastbound motorcycle.

The trailer came free because of Petzel’s “failure to use the correct size ball [for his hitch] to attach the trailer to the tractor,” the charges read, citing a patrol investigation.

Also, he failed to use safety chains that were available and did not have a battery in his breakaway brake system, which is designed to bring a trailer to a safe stop should it come free.

Had those two safety options been in use, they “may have prevented the trailer from traveling into the eastbound lane,” where the motorcyclists were riding, the complaint continued.

A daughter of the Fandriches said on Facebook that her parents were on a family vacation at the time. Kathy Fandrich’s online obituary described her and Marvin as high school sweethearts from Carrington, N.D. They were married for 38 years.