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No injuries as vehicle takes out utility pole

The minivan smashed into a wooden utility pole, sheering it completely at its base. The back of the van then rose up and the entire vehicle flipped, coming to rest upside down on the sidewalk.

That's the scene Dan Hertle described as he and his wife were strolling into Gordy's Hi-Hat in Cloquet Monday afternoon just before 3 p.m.

"We had just parked, and there was this loud bang," Hertle said. "Really loud."

He said he looked to where the sound came from, just a block north on Minnesota Highway 33, and saw the "van flipping over onto its top."

Hertle told his wife to call 911 as he made his way to the crash site. He heard screaming from inside the van and said he was stunned to see the utility pole free from the base, hanging from the lines attached to it from above.

It was quite the spectacle, with cars and school buses going by the scene in a steady stream as emergency responders arrived.

Nichole Holmes, 31, the driver of the 2004 Toyota Sienna, and passenger Nikole Richardson, 35, soon emerged from the wreckage, seemingly unscathed. They refused treatment from medical responders.

Holmes was given a citation, according to the log of the event from the Cloquet Police Department. She was also given a field sobriety test at the scene for any kind of drug or alcohol impairment. Police said they did "not observe any signs of impairment."

A complaint had been taken by police just before the crash after a parking lot incident in another part of the city allegedly involving Holmes. The reporting party said the Sienna had narrowly missed striking another vehicle in the lot.

According to court records, Holmes has a long list of driving infractions, more than 28 since 2016. She's been cited for speeding 12 times in the past five years, including a stop in January for going 40 mph in a 30 mph zone in Cloquet. She had no drivers license on her during that stop, and expired car registration tabs and lapsed insurance.

Court records show that fines from the most recent infractions remain unpaid.

Homes was not the registered owner of the van that crashed Monday.

She has been cited several times for speeding on Interstate 35, including being radar-recorded going 97 mph in June of 2021. She's also been cited for speeds of 89, 84 and 95 in the 70 mph zone.

Hertle said that after the women crawled out of the car, his concern turned to the power lines. A crew from Minnesota Power was on the scene in about 20 minutes and a new pole was installed.

Hertle, who once lived in Cloquet, was visiting from Grand Rapids. He said it was an automatic that he and his wife stop at Gordy's, "a rite of spring." The crash certainly made the trip a memorable one, he said. He shuddered at the thought of what may have happened if Holmes had crashed just one block down on the restaurant property.

Satisfied that the emergency crews had the scene handled, Hertle returned to his wife. "We went back and had a wonderful meal at Gordy's."

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