Earlier that same day, Diane’s brother, Orv Askeland, was celebrating his engagement on the family farm in Iowa.
It was “totally fun with toasts being shared all around,” he said.
Two of his three living brothers and sisters were there to celebrate, but their mood changed a few hours later. Their baby sister, Diane, who did not make the five-hour trip, had died in a car crash.
“It was brutal. Unbelief. There’s gotta be some mistake,” Askeland said.
Diane left Iowa in high school to attend Hillcrest Academy in Fergus Falls. It was there she eventually met the love of her life, Steve Christianson. It would be a few years before Steve would ask Diane’s father for his blessing, even though he was an instant fit into the family.
“I think he was slower on the draw than my dad and mom expected,” Askeland said with a chuckle.
They settled in Steve’s hometown, living in the same house their entire lives and raising their two sons.
“They both loved the outdoors, even before their marriage, the beauty of the fall season,” Askeland said.
Diane had her garden. Steve was known as having the best fish fry in town.
“Since retirement, they were together nonstop, they were each other’s best friends,” Askeland said.
Steve and Diane’s family still wonders how this could have happened.
“The punishment is he gets to live with it for the rest of his life,” said Askeland, referring to Freitag.
The mourning brother is trying to overcome the pain of losing Diane by looking at a recent picture, the last one he has with all his siblings together from a birthday just a few weeks ago.
“She is one of the most tender-hearted people I have ever known,” he said.
The chase started shortly after 6:30 p.m. when deputies said they posed as an acquaintance of the 30-year-old Freitag on social media in an effort to lure him to a convenience store and arrest him on outstanding warrants for drugs, domestic violence and obstruction of justice.
While the events leading to the chase are unclear, deputies ended up in hot pursuit of Freitag after the arrest attempt.
According to scanner traffic, the chase only lasted a couple of minutes. One deputy dropped out of the pursuit after getting two flat tires. Investigators have not said how they became flat.
The other deputy continued the chase into downtown Fergus Falls where it ended when Freitag crashed into the Christianson vehicle at the intersection of Cavour Avenue and Union Avenue.
The sheriff’s office says both of the deputies have been placed on administrative leave due to the seriousness of the outcome.
The Fergus Falls Police Department is investigating whether any charges should be filed against them for their role in the crash.
A police officer examines the car 72-year-old Steven Christianson and his wife were riding in. Matt Henson/WDAY
The department’s chase policy does not have any rules about chasing cars in downtown areas, but does state, “If the identity of the offender is known and it does not reasonably appear that the need for immediate capture outweighs the risks associated with continuing the pursuit, deputies should strongly consider discontinuing the pursuit and apprehending the offender at a later time.”
The Fergus Falls police investigation will also recommend what charges Freitag should face. Freitag remained hospitalized Monday from injuries in the crash. He is expected to survive.