Four killed in MN school bus crash

February 20, 2008 9:04:28 AM PST
Motorists who came across a fatal school bus crash here quickly turned into rescuers, helping the driver pull screaming children out of the tipped-over bus and ferrying them to hospitals in their own cars. Four children aboard the yellow bus were killed Tuesday afternoon, and at least 14 people were injured. An investigation was under way to see if anyone was at fault.

"I parked my car and called 911, and ran to the school bus and the driver was handing kids out the door as fast as I could take them," Karen Mahlum told the Marshall Independent. "They were screaming and screaming on the bus. There was so many kids."

Rescue crews from Cottonwood and surrounding communities were quick on the scene, and some of the emergency workers knew many of the 28 children on the bus. The 580-children school enrolls those from kindergarten to 12th grade.

"It's a very rural community, a very close community," Sgt. Kathy Pederson of the Minnesota State Patrol said of the town of 1,150 people about 140 miles southwest of the Twin Cities.

When Fire Chief Dale Louwagie was asked what the community could do, he said simply, "Pray."

Officials at Cottonwood's Lakeview School canceled Wednesday's classes, as they prepared to make grief counselors available to stricken students.

"These kids are known in the community and they are going to be missed," said Ray Glenn, pastor of Swan Lake Evangelical Free Church. Authorities did not release the names or ages of the four victims.

Fourteen people, all but two of them children, were taken to hospitals in Marshall and Granite Falls, Minn.; four of the 14 were transferred to hospitals in Sioux Falls, S.D.

"We lost four beautiful children, and there's nothing in this world that's more devastating than that," Lakeview School District Superintendent Sheldon Johnson said.

Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued a statement calling it "a sad night for Minnesota."

"It is especially heartbreaking when young lives are lost," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed or injured in this tragic accident."

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