ST. PAUL — Excitement among a busload of people nearing the Minnesota State Fairgrounds for the Fair’s first day turned to fear when the bus crashed into a second tour bus in the Twin Cities, leaving multiple people injured.
Paramedics took eight people to the hospital Thursday morning, Aug. 22, three of whom had serious injuries. An additional 24 people were evaluated and treated for minor injuries.
There were 50 passengers on the bus coming from Little Falls, a city of about 8,500 in central Minnesota.
The collision along the Minneapolis-St. Paul border meant “everyone went flying forward and then I heard a big clank like metal … and then screaming,” said Jaykob Anderson, 13, who was going to the State Fair for “my very first time.”
Jaykob, his mother and many others on the bus didn’t make it to the State Fair in Falcon Heights. After receiving medical attention, they boarded another bus to go home.
Other bus went down embankment
Initial investigation shows a Lorenz Bus Service bus — with only the driver on board — was on Larpenteur Avenue before going south on Minnesota 280, said State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank.
The tour bus went through a grassy area of an embankment, down the road and hit the median barrier on Highway 280 about 10:20 a.m., according to Shank.
An Andy’s Charter Service bus, full of the visitors from Little Falls, hit the back of the Lorenz bus, Shank said.
Firefighters needed to extricate both of the drivers as they were pinned in the collision, according to the St. Paul fire department.
Carol Marie Hanson, 56, of East Bethel, was driving the Lorenz bus and Carrie Ann Gasperlin, 58, of Cushing, Minn., the Andy’s bus, according to the State Patrol.
The drivers and a passenger were the most seriously injured. Hanson and Gasperlin were listed in satisfactory condition at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis on Thursday night. Both drivers were wearing seatbelts and alcohol was not a factor in the crash, according to the State Patrol.
Investigators are working to determine what caused the Lorenz driver “to make that left into the grass instead of using the … ramp to get on” Minnesota 280, Shank said.
Shank said he didn’t have information about whether the Lorenz bus was coming from the fair.
Scream alerted passenger
Robert Janey, 31, heard someone yell from a seat behind him and he braced for impact. He looked up and saw their bus hit another bus.
“People were yelling, blood was everywhere … everything was just bad,” Janey said.
Janey caught himself with his arm, which was put into a splint and bandaged. He planned to have an X-ray when he returned home to determine if any bones are broken.
Was Jaykob, the 13-year-old, excited on Thursday morning to be heading to the State Fair for the first time?
“Well, yeah because it’s the biggest thing in Minnesota,” he said. “If it has the most rides, who can resist a ride? … We’re maybe going to go next year because, from what happened, I don’t feel like going on another bus.”
Bus company: ‘Fully cooperating’
Blaine-based Lorenz Bus Service “is fully cooperating with the authorities as we work to find the cause of this accident,” said Melanie Hinton, spokeswoman for the American Bus Association, speaking on behalf of Lorenz.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were involved in this accident,” Hinton continued. “Lorenz places safety at the highest level, which is reflected by the company attaining the highest safety rating with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.”
A representative from Andy’s Charter Service of Little Falls could not be reached for comment.
The crash led officials to close southbound lanes of Highway 280 until late Thursday afternoon.
“We’re very lucky,” Shank said. “We’re glad that there’s not any fatalities in this. It’s summer, it’s our 100 deadliest days, so just make sure that you plan ahead and that you’re always practicing safe driving habits.”