FARGO — After five months of questions with no answers, authorities have called off the investigation of a May crash on Interstate 29 that left one person dead and two injured.
The region's top trooper called this a very unusual investigation. One of two big questions that could not be answered was why the passenger in the car, 27-year-old Elena Fladeland, opened the door twice as driver Randy Cole, 31, evaded police.
"We've tried interviewing her. She does have an attorney, and her attorney has identified," said North Dakota Highway Patrol Captain Bryan Niewind. "We've submitted questions to the attorney, just for some clarification on some things about the crash and the incident that was going on, and they've just refused to provide any answers."
The biggest question, why did the car driven by Cole slam head-on into a semi? A mechanical problem was ruled out.
"Whether that steering action happened intentionally, or the driver was distracted at the time because of something else going on involved in that incident," said Niewind.
What is known about the events of May 19 is that Cole stole the car from a Grand Forks gas station while the owner ran inside to buy a pop.
"He was addicted to opioids, and he was trying to get to Fargo to go to a methadone clinic, so it sounded like from the phone calls he made that day, he was pretty desperate," said Niewind.
Troopers determined Fladeland was not with Cole at the gas station, and it's unknown when or where she got in or if it was willingly.
Grand Forks County deputies spotted the car minutes later and gave chase down Interstate 29. Speeds topped at 100 miles per hour for the next 20 miles, until a deputy popped the tires with a spike strip. However Cole kept going, and Fladeland opened the door twice. Seconds after she closed the door for the second time, the car slammed into the semi.
The Traill County prosecutor determined the deputies acted appropriately, pointing out that the chase slowed to the posted speed limit in a construction zone, and nobody knew why Fladeland was hanging out of the car.
"We're going to try and get that car stopped and figure out what is going on, potentially rescue that victim," explained Niewind.
Investigators did find pamphlets about suicide in another car owned by Cole. They also found a letter Cole had written talking about the struggles of being away from his 2-week-old daughter that he had with Fladeland. The baby was with a foster family.
"I think it would be beneficial for everybody's sake if we knew a little bit more, and I know Ms. Fladeland has that information and she isn't willing to share it," said Niewind.
According to the final report, Fladeland setup an unauthorized fundraiser in Randy Cole's name after the crash.