Sherry Engebretsen talked to her daughters, Jessica, 18, and Anne, 20, every day. Wednesday was no exception, as she called Jessica from her car at 5:39 p.m., just as she was getting ready to cross the I-35 bridge in Minneapolis on her way home from work.
“I’m on my way home. Be home in five minutes,” said the 60-year-old marketing executive.
Minutes later, the bridge collapsed, and Sherry Engebretsen never made it home.
On Thursday, officials said that she was one of the four confirmed deaths in the tragedy. According to the medical examiner she died of ''multiple blunt-force injuries.''
On Friday morning, her daughters and her husband of 32 years, Ronald, spoke with TODAY co-host Matt Lauer.
“Mom and I made it a point to talk every day, no matter if we were having a good day or a bad day,” said Anne, a college student. “We would talk every day about everything.”
Ronald, 57, who during the interview sat on a couch between his two daughters, holding a crumpled tissue, said he had talked to his wife about an hour earlier about her day at work as the director of marketing at Thrivent Financial in downtown Minneapolis.
It hadn’t been a good day, he said. “She talked about some meeting she’d been in.” She said she’d be home later.
The I-35 bridge was Minneapolis’ most heavily traveled roadway, carrying 141,000 cars a day over the Mississippi River. Ronald Engebretsen had crossed the bridge every workday of the 30 years he had worked in downtown Minneapolis.
It was the shortest way home, but this summer a resurfacing project had backed up traffic on the span, prompting Sherry to look for an alternate route. When she discovered that the Tenth Avenue bridge allowed her to avoid the construction backups, she started taking that way on her commute.
“She used the Tenth Avenue bridge all summer,” Ronald said.
The route to that crossing took her past the ramp to the I-35 span, he said, and, he speculated, on Wednesday she probably saw that traffic was moving well through the construction area.
“She probably saw an opening where she could get across the bridge and head home,” he told Lauer. “After a long day, she probably wanted to cut down her commute time.”
In her ‘dream car’
The daughter of a car enthusiast, Sherry Engebretsen had for years fantasized about cars she wanted to own someday. Over the last year or two, she started looking seriously on the Internet for such a vehicle.
“I told her to go for it,” Ronald said. So she bought a classic Mercedes 280 two-door hardtop convertible and drove it every day to and from work.
“My wife was a great person, a great wife, a great mother to our children,” Ronald said. “She was such an incredible person.”
Sherry Engebretsen was active in the community and in church, and Ronald professed a deep faith that his wife and the mother of their daughters has gone to her reward in heaven.
“She was a woman of great spirit,” Ronald said, “a woman of great conviction, a woman who had a great faith in her God."