The truck smacked over the railroad crossing and everything went horribly wrong.
It was last Monday around 4:50 p.m. on a rural stretch of Rich Valley Boulevard in Rosemount, Minnesota, outside of Minneapolis. As the vehicle's tires bounced on the tracks, the impact jostled a huge boulder - with an estimated weight of reportedly 800-pounds - free from the bed. The massive rock jumped from the truck, banged onto the road, and smashed into a 2002 Toyota Avalon like an artillery shell, according to a press release from the Rosemount Police Department.
The rock completely tore through the car as it passed in the opposite direction, ripping off the Avalon's roof and killing the driver and passenger, WCCO reported. Sixty-seven-year-old Karen J. Christiansen and her daughter Jena H. Christiansen, 32, were declared dead at the scene when authorities arrived. It took four firefighters to move the boulder from the accident site.
According to Rosemount Police Chief Mitchell Scott, it appeared the rock had not been properly secured on the truck. "What's sad about this is it could have been prevented," Scott told WCCO. But authorities also initially did not know who was responsible - following the accident on Monday, the truck fled.
It would take three days for police to finally track down and arrest the alleged driver, Joe P. Czeck. Investigators were led to the suspect by photographs snapped of the truck before the Christiansens were killed.
"By having that photo we were able to do our good old police work," Scott told ABC News.
Czeck is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Friday. Charges are still pending in the case, and the suspect does not yet have an attorney listed in court records.
"You're required by law to have whatever you are hauling secured in your vehicle," Scott told WCCO. "So if you have a lawn mower or an ATV, UTV inside, you are responsible to make sure it's secure."
Karen Christiansen was retired from a position as a training representative at Dakota County Technical College, where she helped match students with job training and companies with potential employees. "She was a very sweet person and such a hard worker," Marlon Teal, a former co-worker, told the Star Tribune. "She was so patient with students and helped a lot of people."
Her daughter Jena worked as a manager at a number of Red Lobster locations.
On Monday, after her shift, Jena picked her mother up from a lunch date with friends. The elder Christiansen got behind the wheel and the two drove off. Throughout the day, Jena was texting with her boyfriend, Ryan Kilian, the Tribune reported. The messages abruptly stopped around 5 p.m.
"She is the most amazing person I have ever met," Kilian said in a statement released Wednesday night, WCCO reported. "She was so smart and beautiful. She made me the man I am today I would be nothing without her. She would do anything for anyone who needed help she loved her family so much she had an amazing sense of humor. I literally have spent hours just talking to her. We had a connection like no other. My heart is broken, the world has lost an angel."
Following the boulder's impact, police investigators pulled camera footage from the roads near the crash site, the Pioneer Press reported. Images came back of a 1999 Sterling Acterra hauling large boulders in the vicinity of the accident. Although the truck's siding was marked with a company logo, the pictures were too blurry to discern the insignia. Instead, investigators visited nearby construction sites.
At one location witnesses identified the truck as belonging to a landscaping company called Czeck Services. The same vehicle had been allegedly at the site picking up large rocks on Monday.
The company's owner, Czeck, was arrested on Wednesday. According to Rosemount Police, Czeck declined to speak to authorities after his arrest.
"OK I know it was an accident but he didn't just ruin two lives," Kilian said in his statement. "Her father's life, my life, her brothers, she literally was a huge part of Red Lobster. She was the general manager of many locations. All of her employees loved her. 3 red lobster locations are taking a day for the loss of a family member. She was with the company for over 15 years."