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Willmar woman dies from Wednesday crash injuries

WILLMAR -- A Willmar woman has died from injuries suffered in a crash Wednesday evening in Willmar.

According to the Willmar Police Department, Maria Rodriguez, 45, has died. She was the front-seat passenger in a Dodge pickup driven by Silvia Velazquez, 33, of Willmar.

A total of six people were injured -- including two bystanders -- in the accident that started at the Kandi Mall entrance on First Street and ended when the Dodge pickup careened into the front windows of Jo-Ann Fabrics.

The smashed front-end of a truck is seen Wednesday night through the broken windows at Jo-Ann Fabrics in Willmar after a peculiar accident that started at the Kandi Mall entrance on First Street.

Six people were injured in the crash including a two-year-old girl. One of the victims was airlifted to another hospital with serious injuries.

Rodriguez was airlifted Wednesday night from Rice Memorial Hospital. Authorities at the time did not know to which hospital she was transferred. Today's updated news release from the Police Department did not indicate when or at what hospital Rodriguez died.

The crash remains under investigation.

Willmar emergency personnel were dispatched shortly after 7 p.m. Wednesday after a car and pickup collided at the intersection of South First Street and the Kandi and Skylark mall entrances.

The pickup reportedly continued through the parking lot, picking up speed and slamming into Jo-Ann Fabrics at speeds estimated between 40 and 50 mph.

Sgt. Jim Felt of the Willmar Police Department said the Velazquez may have been injured in the initial crash.

"We believe she became disoriented after the first accident," Felt said. "I think they just ended up doing a kind of big loop."

Felt added that a witness later told authorities the driver was seen slumped over the wheel.

After apparently picking up speed across the parking lot, the red four-door pickup plowed into the western-most bank of windows at Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts, wrapping around one of the window partitions. Debris from the crash flew all the way to the rear of the store, and injured two customers.

Indications from the crash scene suggest that Rodriguez was not wearing a seatbelt, Felt said. He also noted that the airbag probably went off during the first crash on First Street, leaving no protection during the second crash.

Velazquez's 2-year-old daughter, Aliyssa Gonzales, was also in the pickup. Both Velazquez and Gonzales were being treated at Rice Hospital as of Wednesday evening.

The driver of the Pontiac car, Katie Christian, 23, was also taken to Rice Hospital by a private party.

Even after the crash was over, the scene was chaotic as police officers hurried around the scene and waved on curious observers in the parking lot. Employees inside the store watched as emergency personnel scrambled around the scene.

The Willmar Fire Department, Willmar Ambulance and Kandiyohi County Rescue Squad assisted at the scene.