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3 men die in Cass County crash

Jeffrey Wertish, Robert Nelson and Lenny Steffen died in the crash.

Photo illustration, Shutterstock, Inc. /

Three men died and another was injured in a two-vehicle crash Thursday night, Nov. 4, in Cass County.

The Minnesota State Patrol reported 55-year-old Jeffrey Joseph Wertish of Ellendale and his passenger 59-year-old Robert Charles Nelson of Carver were traveling north on Highway 371 in a GMC Yukon when both were killed after being T-boned by a Chevrolet Uplander shortly after 11 p.m.

The other driver, Lenny James Steffen, 34, of Backus, was driving east on 16th Street Northwest and failed to stop at the intersection at Highway 371, striking the Yukon, according to the state patrol. Steffen also died in the crash.

Neither Wertish nor Steffen wore seat belts, the state patrol reported, while Nelson wore his. A second passenger in Wertish’s car — 25-year-old Jared Matthew Wertish of Ellendale — suffered non-life-threatening injuries and was treated at Essentia Health-St. Joseph’s Medical Center in Brainerd. It was unknown if he wore a seat belt.

Road conditions were dry at the time of the crash, though inclement weather for air travel meant air ambulance helicopters were unable to respond to the scene, according to reports on the police scanner Thursday night.


The Cass County Sheriff’s Office, North Memorial Health Ambulance and the Backus Fire Department assisted at the scene.

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