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Airport worker going 76 mph won't be charged in fatal crash on Fargo runway

An airport security scene Forum News Service file photo

FARGO — A man who drove an SUV that hit and killed a worker striping a runway last summer at Hector International Airport will not be charged, a prosecutor with the Cass County State's Attorney's Office said.

Ryan Younggren said Thursday, Feb. 8, that he informed the Fargo Police Department and Darren Anderson, referred to as the defendant, that he did not believe he had enough evidence to file charges in the case to gain a unanimous verdict from a jury.

The "decline" to charge report was issued Jan. 31.

According to the report, Anderson, the assistant director for the airport, hit and killed Darry Arveson, 48, an employee of West River Striping of Mandan, N.D., on a runway closed for maintenance about 12:40 a.m. on July 31, 2017. Anderson was driving a 2015 Chevrolet Traverse with a passenger.

Arveson, of Glen Ullin, N.D., was driving a paint cart, a small vehicle about the size of a lawn mower. He was outlining center white stripes on the runway with black paint.

When the crash occurred, Arveson was driving the cart north on the far east side of the runway about 70 feet from the center stripes. All the runway lights were off to signal planes not to land, so it was very dark, the report said.

Anderson was called to escort a paint truck back to the far north end of the runway. Data boxes from his vehicle indicate he accelerated up to 93 mph then decelerated to 76 mph at the time of the crash.

The report notes that there are no speed limits or regulations for vehicles traveling on runways, meaning vehicles drive at an "as needed" speed.

A radio call moments before the crash cautioning Anderson to watch for the paint cart was not answered.

Arveson was killed immediately in the collision. The cart had no lights of any kind, and Arveson had been painting using a small headlamp. An accident reconstruction found that much of his reflective security vest would have been obscured by the cart seat.

The report said lights from another runway may also have affected Anderson's ability to see the paint cart.

Anderson said in an interview that he had been traveling quickly to clear maintenance equipment from the east-west runway prior to the arrival of a commuter plane. Records show the plane landed about 30 minutes after the crash.

Younggren said he would have had to prove Anderson had been criminally reckless or negligent in controlling his vehicle.

Younggren said police demonstrations suggested Anderson could have avoided the crash if he had been keenly looking for obstructions or knew the cart's location. Also, if he had been traveling slower, he would have had more time to react.

However, with the paint cart in an unexpected location, a lack of lighting and reflective materials, and no regulations for speed on the runways, Younggren said he didn't believe a conviction could be obtained.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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