Spring Break Bus Crash Kills 1 in Minn.

Saturday, April 05, 2008



A bus carrying students and their chaperones home from a band trip to Chicago rolled over on a highway Saturday, killing one student and injuring the dozens of others on board, authorities said.

The bus was traveling west on Interstate 94 about 30 miles northwest of Minneapolis when it rolled shortly before 6 a.m. and skidded into a ditch, said State Patrol dispatcher Tom Aspling. There were 48 people aboard, including the driver.

Some students had arms and legs pinned under the bus when firefighters arrived, said State Patrol Lt. Mark Peterson. Rescuers spent hours freeing them.

The cause of the crash near Albertville was being investigated. The roads at the time were dry.

The bus was one of two carrying students from Pelican Rapids High School, according to the western Minnesota school's Web site.

The State Patrol identified the victim as Jessica Weishair, 16, of Barnesville.

The students and chaperones were taken to several hospitals, and at least one person remained in critical condition, according to the hospitals. The students on the second bus were unhurt and taken to a church in Albertville.

"(The students) said it was dark and that they were all asleep," said Gloria O'Connell, spokeswoman for Allina Hospitals & Clinics.

Colleen Moerke, wife of principal Glen Moerke, said the students had performed Friday in Chicago over spring break and were to return to the school Saturday morning.

The bus, owned by Richards Transportation Service in Moorhead, was driven by Loren D. Ernst, 69, the State Patrol said.

Company co-owner Jay Richards said the driver began working there last year after years of driving semitrailer trucks and other heavy equipment.

"He is an experienced driver," said Richards, adding that the accident was the first for the 30-year-old firm.

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