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Widow: Hazen truck driver may have suffered heart attack

Thursday wasn't the first time that the man found dead after crashing his pickup truck into a Dickinson home was involved in an accident where the vehicle he was operating veered into oncoming interstate traffic in North Dakota.

Identified Friday by the North Dakota Highway Patrol, Robert M. Kilber, 52, of Hazen, was seriously injured when a vehicle he was operating crossed the median along Interstate 94 and entered oncoming traffic near New Salem on Oct. 14, 2011, according to an incident report obtained from the HP.

Shortly before noon on Thursday, Kilber's 2005 Ford pickup, for unknown reasons, again crossed the I-94 median into eastbound lanes, proceeded to go into the south ditch, up a hill and into the basement of a home at 1189 12th St. E. in Dickinson, according to HP Sgt. Dan Haugen.

A woman and child were present in the home -- which, according to city property tax records, is owned by Tyson and Carri Jung -- at the time of the crash, but they were not injured, according to Haugen. Emergency personnel found Kilber without a pulse following the accident.

Robert Kilber's widow, Delree Kilber, said she was told that her husband may have suffered a heart attack before losing control of his vehicle.

"I don't think anything is official yet, but I was told by the coroner and the funeral director that they suspect it was a heart attack," Delree said. "We're all just in shock right now. He had dropped our youngest son off at school (Thursday morning), came home and read for a while and was heading to Dickinson to check on a semi that he runs before the accident happened. He never made it."

Stark County coroner Dennis Wolf said Friday that the official cause of death was "blunt force trauma" due to the impact of the crash, but added the circumstances leading up to the crash were still being investigated. Wolf said a toxicology report could be expected within about six weeks, but no autopsy has been scheduled.

Delree said Robert suffered a severe back injury in the 2011 accident, but said no official cause of that accident was ever listed. On the HP incident report, it was stated that "driver 1 (Robert Kilber) did not remember what happened or why he lost control of his vehicle."

Delree said she and her husband celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in June and the two had four children.

"He was such a good and caring man," Delree said. "He loved to fix things. He's going to be missed by all of us. I know one thing -- something must have happened because he would have done anything possible to avoid that house. It's a blessing that nobody else was injured."

After responding to the crash, Dickinson Fire Department Chief Robert Sivak said fire personnel had to partially brace the home because of concerns it could potentially collapse following the accident.

"There have been instances of vehicles running into homes in Dickinson in the past," Sivak said. "I know a few years ago, the Dickinson Rural Fire Department handled a call of a vehicle partially in a home. But to have one like what we saw (Thursday) where the vehicle was almost totally in the structure, I had not seen that before. It was in there pretty good."

Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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