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Lakeview students injured when semi, bus collide

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RENVILLE –– Seven people, including five Lakeview High School students and their English teacher that were returning from a field trip, were injured Wednesday when a semi collided with their school bus near Renville.

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According to the Minnesota State Patrol, the accident happened at 6 p.m. on U.S. Highway 212, east of Renville, when a 2013 Freightliner driven by David R. Littlecreek-Wilbanks, 50, of Granite Falls, collided broadside with the school bus driven by Dennis M. Isaackson, 56, of Cottonwood.

The bus was going west on Highway 212 and the semi was going east when the semi turned north onto Renville County Road 21 and collided with the bus.

There were 19 passengers on the school bus at the time.

They included students in a college-level English course who were returning to the Cottonwood school from a field trip to the Chanhassen Dinner Theater, according to Lakeview School Superintendent Chris Fenske.

The injured were taken to RC Hospital in Olivia to be examined as a precaution.

None of the injuries was considered life-threatening but news of the bus accident brought a rush of memories back to the families and staff in the Lakeview district.

Four young students from Lakeview Schools were killed in a 2008 collision between a school bus and van that ran a stop sign. The driver of the van was convicted and sentenced to prison.

“We’ve been through this before,” said Fenske, adding that the 2008 accident is always “in the back of people’s minds.”

Getting the call that his students had been involved in another bus accident “brought back a lot of sad memories,” he said.

Fenske called the school’s crisis team into action and kept in steady contact with parents Wednesday night.

“We kept the families in the loop,” he said.

Because of the snowy conditions and icy roads, Fenske said he didn’t want parents on the road and he sent a school bus to pick up the students and their teacher, Josie Laleman.

The bus returned to the high school in Cottonwood at about 9:30 p.m. and students were reunited with their parents.

Fenske said they had a debriefing with families before students went home. Counselors were at the school Thursday, in part to advise teachers to be watchful of physical and emotional issues with students.

Knowing that the accident could have been so much worse, Fenske said he is “very thankful everyone is OK” and that all the students were able to be back in school Thursday.

The students that were taken to the hospital included Erin Devereaux, 18, of Cottonwood; Kailey Haab, 18, of Wood Lake; Sydney Matthys, 17, city unknown; Dennis Backson, 17, city unknown; Jocelyn Dopp, 18, Cottonwood; and their teacher, Josie Laleman, 33, of Minneota.

Littlecreek-Wilbanks was also taken to the RC Hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

The school bus driver suffered no apparent injuries.

Both drivers were wearing seat belts, and alcohol was not a factor. The road was icy at the time.

The Renville Police Department and the Renville County Sheriff’s Office assisted at the scene, along with Renville Ambulance and Renville Fire Department.

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Carolyn Lange
A reporter for more than 30 years, Carolyn Lange covers county government and regional news with the West Central Tribune.
(320) 894-9750
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