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Vehicular homicide case dropped after tests show truck driver had no drugs in his system
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Vehicular homicide case dropped after tests show truck driver had no drugs in his system

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First responders examine a January 2019 crash scene from a ladder truck. A car driver died after a semi driver crashed into her near Exit 60 on Interstate 90.

A vehicular homicide charge against a truck driver was dropped after lab tests found the man had no Ambien or other kinds of drugs in his system, a prosecutor said.

Brian Rasmussen, a semi driver from De Beque, Colorado, crossed the median on Interstate 90 in eastern Rapid City and hit a car traveling in the opposite direction in January 2019.

The car driver, 64-year-old Karen Bryan, died at the scene.

Rasmussen, who is in his 50s, was charged with vehicular homicide after allegedly admitting to using Ambien two days before the crash, according to an affidavit from the Highway Patrol. Ambien and other sleep medications used to treat insomnia can impair driving, according to the Food and Drug Administration.

The charge was dropped earlier this year when lab tests found that the Ambien was no longer in Rasmussen's body at the time of the crash, according to Lara Roetzel, chief deputy at the Pennington County State’s Attorney Office.

“Ambient was not found in his system,” Roetzel said.

“He did not have any alcohol or drugs in his system” beyond prescription medication that wouldn’t impact his driving, she added.

South Dakota's vehicular homicide law is only for cases when a driver kills someone while driving under the influence.

Roetzel said her office could have charged Rasmussen with a driving or traffic-related crime but the office and Bryan’s family decided not to.

Navajo Express, the trucking company Rasmussen worked for at the time of the crash, did not respond to an email asking about his employment status. 

— Contact Arielle Zionts at arielle.zionts@rapidcityjournal.com

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