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Charge filed in I-94 blizzard pileup fatality

A North Dakota Highway patrolman walks to his vehicle in blizzard conditions Dec. 30 at the Cass County Highway Department office in West Fargo. Earlier in the day, a massive pileup west of the city killed one motorist. Forum file phot

A Chicago truck driver is facing criminal charges linked to an Interstate 94 crash Dec. 30 that killed a fellow truck driver and closed freeways surrounding Fargo-Moorhead for three days.

One count of aggravated reckless driving was filed in Cass County District Court on Monday against Henad Sibinovic, a 28-year-old accused of driving too fast on icy roads in whiteout conditions and causing the death of Lowell Balk, 50, of Walcott, N.D.

Troopers said at the time that Balk had gotten out of his own truck to help with a massive, chain-reaction midday pileup just west of West Fargo that involved nearly 100 cars and stranded some drivers in their vehicles overnight.

Sibinovic faces a Class A misdemeanor, which can carry a jail term of up to one year upon conviction.

A phone message left for Sibinovic at the firm he worked for at the time of the crash, D Line Trucking, wasn't returned. A phone message left for Balk's widow wasn't returned.

The case didn't appear in the court's record-keeping system on Monday, but Tristan Van de Streek, an assistant Cass County state's attorney, said the charges were filed Monday.

A report from the North Dakota Highway Patrol filed with the charges said Sibinovic was driving east from Drake, N.D., to Highland, Ill., on I-94 between Mapleton, N.D., and West Fargo when he approached the site of the accident.

Sibinovic told a trooper he was going about 40 mph, despite being unable to see, when he struck several vehicles, at least one of them head-on, according to the Highway Patrol report.

Capt. Eldon Mehrer of the Highway Patrol said in early January there were 15 vehicles involved in the series of collisions that eventually killed Balk.

Sibinovic told authorities he saw a person in the roadway who began to run away as he passed by, the report states. The semi he was driving had about $20,000 in damage and had to be towed from the scene, according to the report.

The massive I-94 pileup, which drew national headlines, began when an empty semi jackknifed across both eastbound lanes. The ensuing series of accidents caused 35 crashes damaging nearly 50 vehicles.