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Man found guilty of deaths during July 4 crash near Ponsford, Minn.

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DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - A jury of nine women and three men Friday afternoon found a 26-year-old man guilty of six felony counts in relation to a July 4 crash near Ponsford, Minn., that killed four people and seriously injured two others.

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Eric Stewart, who lists residences in Ponsford and Detroit Lakes, faced six felony counts accusing him of causing the deaths of Gregory Norcross, 45, Kayla Norcross, 24, Charlene Norcross, 22, and Scott Adams, 28, all of Ponsford.

He was also charged with seriously injuring Donna Peake, 22, and Amber Goodman, 23, both of Ponsford.

Stewart was involved in an accident in which a van traveling at least 55 to 62 mph missed a curve on a county road near Ponsford, went off the road and the driver tried to steer it back onto the road before hitting a field approach. The van flew 88 feet in the air, landed, continued and rolled, a total distance of 413 feet from the point it left the roadway.

Bodies and badly injured people were found 40 to 50 feet in all directions from where the van came to rest.

Prosecutors said that Stewart was the driver of the van, but the defense tried to prove that he wasn't driving but switched into the drivers seat.

But even the two other surviving members of the crash split in their testimony:

Peake, who is paralyzed, testified for the prosecution, saying Stewart was the driver.

Goodman, who suffered traumatic brain injury and multiple broken bones, testified for the defense and said Adams was driving at the time of the accident.

However, both suffer from memory problems as a result of the crash. Both were thrown from the van and found lying on the ground. Peake was screaming in pain from her injuries. Goodman was unconscious.

Tears were shed by supporters on both sides of the trial and after the verdict was read, Becker County Sheriff Tim Gordon led about 10 of Stewart's family members to his office to answer questions.

The judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and a sentencing date has not yet been set.

Nathan Bowe is a reporter at the Detroit Lakes (Minn.) Tribune, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

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