Man Killed in Flash Floodwaters Identified - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Man Killed in Flash Floodwaters Identified

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We now know the name of a man who died after a flash flood swept his vehicle off a road north of Gwinner, North Dakota Thursday morning. James Materi of Lisbon called for help as his truck was filling with water. Law enforcement scrambled to save Materi but the vehicle was submerged and dragged off highway 32 nearly a quarter of a mile. Valley News team's Eric Crest traveled there today and talked with witnesses about how this tragic event unfolded.

After a flash flood nailed highway 32 along the Dead Colt Creek, it managed to wash a vehicle nearly a quarter of a mile away from the road with a man stuck inside. Authorities had to shut down passage along 32 and highway 13 due to the 8 inches of water that created the flash flooding situation.

Douglas and Mary Jansen saw it all happen first hand. Almost as if it were in slow motion all from their front step.

"It's really sad to know he was almost through it. Then it came kind of a gush and took him off," explains Mary Jansen.

The Jansens say they watched as other vehicles made it through, smaller vehicles at that. But the flood waters that slapped James Materi's pick up were just too powerful.

"If you would have been there by the creek... I was before... And the way the water was flowing you could see how it would wash anything with it," says Douglas Materi.

For nearly five hours emergency crews tried to locate the pickup stuck in the creek. The waters subsided as the day progressed, but it turned from a rescue mission to a recovery mission. Leaving a visual that the Jansens won't forget anytime soon.

"Scary... I felt so helpless for him. But I couldn't stop him. I was hoping he'd hang up and have a chance to get out. But I stood there helpless," says Mary Jansen.

The Bobcat Plant in Gwinner flooded today as well. Production was put on hold for at least the day. Employees had the option to stay and help clean up or take the day off. And keep this in mind, if you come upon water on the road, it's always best to avoid it if at all possible.


Authorities have released name of the man who was killed when his truck was swept off the road by flash flooding this morning.

James John Materi, a 48-year-old from Lisbon, North Dakota, was driving on Highway 32 between Gwinner and Lisbon when the accident happened.

The Sargent County Sheriff's Department says Materi called state radio just before 8:00 Thursday morning to report his pickup was in the water and he was trapped inside.

His body was removed from about nine feet of water. Highway 32 was closed earlier Thursday, but reopened to drivers about 4:00 p.m.


Strong overnight thunderstorms with some hail and flooding rainfall hit the south and western parts of the valley Wednesday night into Thursday morning.

Sargent County Sheriff Travis Paeper tells KFGO news that at least one person drowned after their vehicle was swept off Highway 32 north of Gwinner by floodwaters Thursday morning.

Firefighters responded after the occupant called for help on a cell phone just before 8 A.M. Paeper says the fast moving water pushed the vehicle several hundred feet off the road.

Parts of Gwinner, ND reported getting 6.53 inches of rain overnight. One viewer told us that workers from the Bobcat manufacturing facility were sent home Wednesday night because the roads were becoming a hazard. 

There is a likelihood of many water covered roadways and washouts in the southern part of the valley. One viewer, Tracy Harland, shared with us a picture of the Dead Colt Creek that has flooded over the nearby gravel road. That creek is about 10 miles south of Lisbon. 

The North Dakota Department of Transportation has closed Highway 13 about eight miles west of Gwinner and 32 from Gwinner to Lisbon due to heavy rains causing flooding. There is also water on the roadway on Highway 13 in the town of Gwinner and Highway 18 in Wyndmere. You may drive on those roads but the speed limit has been reduced.

These roads have all been hit by flooding and speed limits have been reduced:

  • ND Highway 14, twelve miles north of Towner
  • US Highway 83, nine miles north of Max – Temporary grade raise in place with single lanes of traffic in both directions.
  • ND 53, near Benedict
  • ND Highway 200, four miles west of Hurdsfield.
  • ND Highway 200, four miles east of Hurdsfield - Temporary Grade raise in place with a single lane of traffic.

More than a thousand people lost power north of Fargo Thursday morning in the Arthur, Grandin and Gardner areas. Cass County Electric sent crews out early to work to get the power back on. Everyone in those areas got their power back on just a few minutes before 5 a.m.

You can find more details and the full forecast under our weather tab.

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