A beloved grade school teacher in Blooming Prairie has died from the injuries she suffered in the car crash that initially killed her 8-year-old daughter.
Rachel Harberts, 43, of Dodge Center passed away around 5:45 a.m. Saturday at St. Mary’s Hospital in Rochester about two days after her family made the difficult decision to pull her off life support.
“She went very peacefully surrounded by her family which she has been for the past few days,” her family posted on Caring Bridge a short time after her death. “Last night Jodi played music for Rachel and Mom and Dad spent all night in Rachel’s room. Like everyone I don’t know what else to day.”
The family went on to say in their posting, “The love and support for our family has been the biggest part in getting us through this difficult time. Thank you all so much for that. Now is the time to start remembering all the things we loved about Rachel and Emerson and move forward trying to honor their memory.”
Emerson Harberts was killed instantly in the Sept. 7 motor vehicle crash along U.S. Highway 14 on the east edge of Claremont. Rachel, who was driving the vehicle, was critically injured along with her 12-year-old son, Jaxon. He has been improving and is expected to recover. They were headed to Blooming Prairie for school when a Hummer from behind careened into their vehicle.
“We are all so thankful for Jaxon’s survival and continued progress toward a full recovery,” the family shared in their post. “Hug somebody a little tighter today for Rachel and Emerson.”
Amy Simon, a para-professional at Blooming Prairie Elementary School where Rachel was a first grade teacher, has known the Harberts family for four years as their sons are in seventh grade. She said the school has been devastated by the loss of first Emerson, a third grader, and now Rachel. She described the deaths as being a “huge loss for the school.”
Simon said she is scared for the future of what’s ahead, but she is confident everyone within the school will pull together to support each other.
“If you were ever having a bad day, her face is the one you wanted to see,” Simon said of Rachel. “She always had the right thing to say. Her heart was very dedicated. She was extremely dedicated and a loving person to her family and our town.”
Simon said she had just spoken to Rachel the night before the crash at a school event. Rachel commented about how she hated making the drive from Dodge Center to Blooming Prairie, but she would continue to do what it takes to make it work because she loved the community so much.
“It makes my stomach turn now after what happened,” Simon said.
But Simon says she takes refuge in the time they had together. “There will be a lot of joy and great memories of Rachel,” she said. “We have so many amazing memories even though it didn’t end the way we ever imagined.”
Southern Minnesota Today reported several days after the crash that the other driver, Tanner Kruckeberg, 24, of Dodge Center, admitted to authorities that he was looking down at his center console to put away his cell phone when he looked up and his Hummer rear-ended the Harberts’ car.
Sgt. Troy Christianson of the State Patrol said there is no new information on the crash when questioned about the SMT report. He did, however, confirm that a search warrant was executed for the Airbag Control Module on Kruckeberg’s vehicle.
When asked about a search warrant on Kruckeberg’s cell phone, Christianson said he wasn’t sure in this case, but added, “it is common in the investigation to get the cell phone.”
Christianson said the investigation into what happened is on-going. “We are in the investigation process which takes 30 to 60 days to complete,” he said.
Once the investigation is completed, the case will be turned over to the Dodge County Attorney’s Office to review for criminal charges.