Updated: August 22, 2019 06:10 PM
Eight people were taken to the hospital and southbound lanes of Highway 280 were closed for hours after two tour buses collided near Hennepin Avenue in Lauderdale Thursday morning.
The superintendent said most passengers on that bus were adults, with the exception of one child. The passengers were part of the Little Falls Community Schools' community education program and were headed to the Minnesota State Fair.
According to Minnesota State Patrol troopers, eight people were taken to a hospital with varying injuries. 50 passengers were noted have been on Andy's Charter Service bus at the time of the incident, not including the driver. The other bus was empty other than the driver.
Fire and rescue officials said the driver of each bus was pinned after the collision and had to be extracted. They were each transported to a hospital. Of the eight total taken to hospitals, three had critical injuries at the time they were transported, officials said, and the rest had injuries that were considered minor.
The remaining passengers were taken by local transport buses to a St. Paul Fire Department training facility, where 24 more people were evaluated for minor injuries.
Jody Arbuckle said the first responders were terrific, they used ladders to get up into the bus to check on passengers. She doesn't recall what she hit, but her mouth and face are very bruised and swollen.
"They checked us at the scene and again in here, there were two doctors in there, but I think people are realizing they are more hurt already," Arbuckle said.
"There were older people on that bus, so that's kind of scary, but we're all alive," she added.
Robert Janey has a splint on his forearm. He recalled bracing himself before the two buses collided.
"Somebody yelled something really loud and I saw our bus hit the other bus and all carnage just broke loose, people were yelling, there was blood everywhere all over the floor the seats," he said.
Doctors said most of the injuries were people impacting the seat in front of them, so a lot of knee and shin contusions, facial contusions and bruises.
Aside from the eight people taken to hospitlas, all passengers made the decision to return to Little Falls, the superintendent said.
The driver told the superintendent a Lorenz Bus Service bus hit the Andy's Charter Services bus. Troopers said the Lorenz bus was taking a left onto a ramp to Highway 280, but for some reason went down an embankment to the highway and struck the Andy's Charter bus.
"I know there are people in the white bus, looks like they are getting them out one-by-one ... seeing if they're hurt or not," Mike Bohlken said as he ran down from his work and watched the rescue. "Some kind of wild ride they didn't expect this early in the morning."
Investigators said they plan to question the bus drivers involved as soon as they are able to at the hospital.
"We will have troopers go down to HCMC to do follow-up investigations when the time is right, we're obviously concerned about their well-being, first and foremost," said Lt. Gordon Shank, with Minnesota State Patrol.
Lorenz Bus issued the following statement to KSTP following the crash:
"Lorenz Bus is fully cooperating with the authorities as we work to find the cause of this accident. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were involved in this accident. 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.
"While this investigation is still on going, this is the only statement we will make until we know more."
Due to crash reconstruction, the southbound lanes of the highway remained closed for several hours. It reopened at about 4 p.m.
Updated: August 22, 2019 06:10 PM
Published: August 22, 2019 12:00 AM
Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company