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Driver killed when tanker overturns outside Cloquet

A 31-year-old Grand Rapids, Minnesota man was killed Saturday, April 29, when his tractor-trailer overturned, catching fire and causing an explosion north of Cloquet, at the convergence of northbound Minnesota Highway 33 and U.S. Highway 53.

Xavier Ryan Henson was hauling a tanker northbound on Highway 33 and was unable to negotiate the curve at the junction with Highway 53, a Minnesota State Patrol news release said.

The semi left the roadway, overturning and catching fire. Smoke in the aftermath of the explosion and subsequent fire could be seen for several miles. The crash occurred in New Independence Township at 12:51 p.m. Saturday.

Assisting agencies included the St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office, St. Louis County Rescue Squad, Alborn Fire, 148th Air Guard Fire, Grand Lake Fire, Canosia Fire, Hermantown Fire Department, Cloquet Area Fire District.

The crash caused the roadways to be closed for multiple hours, rerouting traffic onto lengthy rural detours.

In a Facebook post, the St. Louis County Rescue Squad called it a “rare event” that closed two major highways.

“The overwhelming majority cheerfully accepted this, many of you expressing concern for the victim as well as safety of the responders working the call,” the Rescue Squad post said, while also describing some travelers who were put out by the closures.

“A small handful blew their stacks, and we fielded several F-you’s, middle fingers, and various other insults,” the post said.

The Rescue Squad concluded that some travelers could behave better when things happen that are out of everyone’s control. “We’ll get you on your way as quickly as we possibly can,” the post said, while referring to the victim’s death as “a terrible tragedy.”