Motorists become rescuers in school bus crash

February 20, 2008 8:41:32 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 some to a hospital in their own cars.

Four children aboard the bus were killed Tuesday afternoon, and at least 14 people were injured.

"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."

Wednesday's classes were canceled at Cottonwood's Lakeview School, which has 580 children from Kindergarten to 12th graf, and grief counselors met with students and staff.

There was a steady flow of people seeking support, Superintendent Sheldon Johnson said. "You can see it in their eyes, 'Please help,"' he said.

Police said the bus was struck by a van and landed on its side atop a pickup truck. An investigation was under way to see if anyone was at fault.

Rescue crews came from Cottonwood and surrounding communities and some of the emergency workers knew many of the 28 children on the bus.

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

Names and ages of the four victims were not released. "These kids are known in the community and they are going to be missed," said Ray Glenn, pastor of Swan Lake Evangelical Free Church.

Fourteen people, all but two of them children, were taken to hospitals in Marshall and Granite Falls; four were transferred to hospitals in Sioux Falls, S.D. Eight people remained hospitalized Wednesday, hospital officials 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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