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MN woman charged with driving drunk in fatal crash with 2 on motorcycle

This news story was published on September 19, 2012.
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Paul Walsh, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) –

A motorist charged Tuesday with driving drunk and fatally colliding in her SUV with two people on a motorcycle in East Bethel had a blood alcohol content well above the legal limit, according to the criminal complaint.

Paula L. Larson, 42, of Bethel, was charged in Anoka County District Court with two counts of criminal-vehicular homicide in the deaths of John A. Jordan, 48, of St. Francis, and Patricia L. Kalla, 46, of Big Lake, Minn. Larson remains jailed.

A preliminary breath test the night of the crash Sunday at Viking Boulevard and Rendova Street measured Larson’s blood alcohol content at 0.195 percent, more than twice the legal limit for driving in Minnesota.

Larson at first told authorities at the scene, “No, I have not been drinking,” the complaint read, but soon after said she had been at a bar about 2 miles northeast of the crash site and had two drinks before driving.

Deputies arriving at the scene saw that Jordan and Kalla had suffered “severe head trauma,” according to the complaint. Neither rider was wearing a helmet, said Sheriff’s Cmdr. Paul Sommer.

For Kalla, a mother of three, Sunday’s accident happened when “she was finally at a point where she could enjoy life,” said her ex-husband, Wayne Kalla.

Twice divorced, Patricia Kalla had moved from Big Lake to St. Francis to settle with Jordan, her latest relationship. She had fulfilled a long-time dream of becoming a flight attendant, having been hired two years ago by Delta Air Lines, Wayne Kalla said.

“She was working steadily,” Wayne Kalla said. “I saw her in June when my stepdaughter got married. The next day, our twin sons graduated from Big Lake High School. Her new guy seemed like a nice guy. They were happy as far as I knew.”

Both vehicles were heading west on Viking, and Larson apparently made an “unknown maneuver” that led to the motorcycle colliding with the SUV, the complaint read.

Larson’s driving history in Minnesota includes two convictions in 2010 for failure to stop for a traffic signal and failure to drive with due care that same year.

Sommer said investigators also have yet to determine who was operating the motorcycle because “there were no witnesses to the accident itself, and both decedents were thrown well away” from the point of impact.

For now, Sommer added, authorities are speculating that Jordan was the operator because the motorcycle was registered to him.

Sunday’s crash brings the traffic death toll to at least four along Viking Boulevard in East Bethel in the past five months.

In April, a car struck and killed a 42-year-old bicyclist who crossed in front of traffic on Viking just west of Breezy Point Drive.

In May, a 29-year-old woman from East Bethel died after she drove her vehicle into the back of a semitrailer truck that was parked on the shoulder on Viking at Rochester Street.

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