Updated story: Man driving wrong way dies in accidentAn apparently intoxicated Cloquet man died Tuesday night after driving the wrong way down Highway 210 and colliding head-on with another vehicle.
By: Jana Peterson, Pine Journal
Despite efforts to dissuade him from driving, an apparently intoxicated Cloquet man died Tuesday night after driving the wrong way down Minnesota Highway 210 in Carlton County and colliding head-on with another vehicle.
The other driver, 23-year-old Brittany Clemens of Cloquet, suffered extensive but non-life-threatening injuries, said Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Mark Baker,
The man, 33-year-old Mike Bowman of Cloquet, came to the bar to sign up for the bar’s softball team and stayed for at least an hour, according to Leemo’s Northstar Bar owner Nick Liimatainen, who said he didn’t remember seeing Bowman at the bar before.
“I don’t think he drank that much while he was here; I don’t know if he was somewhere else before,” Liimatainen said. “But we offered to call a cab – which we will pay for – plus we always have three or four people who aren’t drinking who will drive people home.”
The State Patrol report reflects that people at the bar tried unsuccessfully to prevent Bowman from driving.
“They reported they had tried to stop what they believed to be an intoxicated male from leaving and driving,” Baker said. “They couldn’t do it.”
An off-duty security guard called 911 after Bowman left the bar, formerly known as the Lost Isle. Upon leaving, Bowman drove across the grass and hit a tree before heading west on Highway 210, Baker said. The caller gave police a description of the car and the license plate number.
Baker said that call was the first of three 911 calls regarding Bowman.
The next call came from another driver about 11:30 p.m., reporting a vehicle of the same description driving west in the eastbound lane of Highway 210.
Baker surmised that Bowman must have turned his car around, maybe because he missed the exit to Cloquet. He was headed east in the westbound lane of the undivided two-lane highway when he collided with the other car. The accident occurred near the intersection of Schmitz Road and Highway 210, about a mile west of Black Bear Casino, Baker said.
The woman driving the other car was wearing a seatbelt, Baker said, and the airbag in her 2005 Mercury Montego deployed.
“We did just about everything we could, but the greatest gift is free will,” Liimatainen said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, while watching surveillance video from the night before that he said showed Bowman leaving the bar and going to his car more than once while he was there. “We always make sure a ride is available, because you never know what kind of day someone’s had, or if they’re on medication, or what.
“It’s unfortunate for everyone involved – the victims and all of my employees,” Liimatainen said. “They’re taking it tough, but I’m proud of them. They went above and beyond what their responsibilities were. I’m proud of the way they handled it, even though the outcome ended up being undesirable.”
Baker said police do not think the woman had been drinking, but he noted that state police would test alcohol levels on Bowman, who was not wearing a seatbelt.
Steve Kuchera of the Duluth News Tribune contributed to this report.