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Driver And Passenger Allegedly Fought Over The Car Wheel Before Deadly Girl Scout Crash

Colten Treu, 21, and his roommate both told authorities there had been a fight for the wheel, but they differ in their accounts of what led to the intervention.

By Jill Sederstrom

In the moments before Colten Treu's black truck plowed into a group of Girl Scouts along the side of the highway, killing four, there had been a dramatic fight for control of the steering wheel.

Treu and his passenger, John Stender Jr., both admitted to police that Stender grabbed the wheel after they had been inhaling fumes from a keyboard cleaner to get high, but each maintains a different reason for the intervention.

According to Stender, he grabbed the wheel to correct Treu's driving after noticing Treu looked "out of it"  and crossed over the center line, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Stender said Treu yelled at him, grabbed the wheel, and swerved hard, causing the car to jerk back in the direction of the Girl Scouts.

"Mr Stender stated the next thing he recalled is waking up down the road," the complaint said, according to the Leader-Telegram.

However, Treu claims he didn't pass out and said he had only taken two short huffs from the can of Dustoff both men were using before the crash. He told investigators Stender had been huffing heavily and grabbed the wheel causing Treu to lose control of the vehicle, the complaint said.

After striking into the group of Girl Scouts who had been picking up trash along the rural highway as part of a service project, Treu fled the scene. The car was later found parked in a garage with "significant front-end damage, with weeds observed stuck in the front bumper," the criminal complaint said.

Treu told investigators he saw the group of seven girls and five adults before he crashed into them Saturday around 11:40 a.m., the Leader-Telegram reports.

Jayna S. Kelley, 9; Autumn A. Helgeson, 10; Haylee J. Hickle, 10; and Hickle's mother, Sara Jo Schneider, 32, were all killed in the crash.

A fifth victim, Madalyn Zwiefelhofer, was taken to the hospital with severe injuries. According to the criminal complaint she suffered "traumatic aortic rupture, splenic laceration, pulmonary laceration, hematoma of the left anterior frontal lobe, acute kidney injury and acute hypoxic and hypercarbic respiratory failure."

Treu was formally charged Tuesday with 11 counts, including four counts of homicide by intoxicated use of a vehicle, four counts of hit-and-run involving death, one count of hit-and-run causing great bodily harm, and one count of intentionally abusing hazardous materials and bail jumping.

Stender has not been charged, and it's not clear yet whether any charges are expected for his involvement in the crash.

[Photo: Chippewa County Sheriff’s Office]

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