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2013 story: Police identify Cottage Grove man killed when car hits railroad bridge

Cottage Grove police on Friday morning inspect the scene of a fatal one-vehicle crash on 103rd Street at the railroad bridge just east of Grey Cloud Trail. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente1 / 2
A stop sign is located at a railroad bridge on 103rd Street in Cottage Grove, but police say there was no sign that a 35-year-old man stopped before his car left the road and struck the bridge pier late Thursday, killing the driver. Bulletin photo by Scott Wente2 / 2

Police have identified the Cottage Grove man killed late Thursday when his car struck the concrete base of a railroad bridge near Mississippi Dunes Golf Links.

Jonathon R. Cox, 35, was traveling westbound on 103rd Street when his Dodge Charger left the road, careened off a railroad bridge pier and crashed beneath the bridge deck, police said. Cox was pronounced dead at the scene.

The exact cause of the crash was not immediately known but the preliminary investigation pointed to excessive speed as the main factor, Cottage Grove Police Capt. Pete Koerner said Friday morning. There were no brake marks visible on the road.

It was not immediately known whether alcohol was a factor. A toxicology test was being conducted.

The State Patrol conducted a crash reconstruction overnight. Trains were stopped for a time after the crash, but there was no known damage to the bridge.

Police were called to the area at 11:27 p.m. on a report of vehicle debris near the road. The crash was discovered when officers arrived on scene. It was not immediately clear when Cox crashed.

A child's car seat was visible in the wreckage but the vehicle was so badly damaged that authorities also requested that a State Patrol helicopter with heat-detecting equipment fly overhead and determine whether there were any other passengers. There were no others.

The bridge is near the base of a long hill just east of the intersection of 103rd Street and Grey Cloud Trail. The road winds as it passes beneath the railroad bridge. There is a stop sign at the base of the hill, but authorities and nearby residents said for many years cars have traveled that stretch of road at excessive speeds.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe bridge was rebuilt in 2007. That project included a widening of 103rd Street and other improvements. A proposal to eliminate the curve in the road at the railroad bridge was not pursued because it would have required a wider bridge at a cost of more than $1 million, according to the city.

Scott Wente

Scott Wente has been editor at the South Washington County Bulletin since 2011. He worked as a reporter at other Forum Communications newspapers from 2003 to 2011.

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