BEMIDJI -- One Bemidji Area Schools student was airlifted and five others removed by ambulance from the scene of school bus accident this morning.
A school bus filled with elementary students was heading south on Irvine Avenue Northwest at about 7:40 a.m. when it was struck by a car heading east on South Movil Lake Road, and the bus came to rest on its side in the ditch. Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said the car failed to stop at a stop sign there.
All students involved were taken to Sanford Bemidji Medical Center for examination and will be transported to their schools, according to a release from district Superintendent Jim Hess.
Hodapp said about 30 people arrived at the emergency room, but that most were quickly released; most students had either minor injuries or were not hurt. The student who was airlifted was injured when his arm was pinned between a bus seat and a window. No one sustained critical injuries and there were no fatalities.
The bus driver was also injured and was taken to Sanford for serious injuries, officials said.
Sanford Bemidji Medical Center said a hotline has been set up for parents to call for information. The number is (218) 333-6040. Parents should report to the east entrance of the hospital.
The bus involved was Bemidji School District Bus No. 25. The students on board were largely from the school district’s northern attendance areas, which includes Red Lake Nation, and the bus was headed for nearby Northern Elementary, according to school district staff. Most of the bus’ passengers were bound for Northern, but others were en route to Central Elementary or Paul Bunyan Elementary.
First responders on the scene used hatches and the bus’ rear entrance to remove students, an eyewitness said.
Hodapp said the crash is still being investigated, but praised the bus driver, first responders and hospital personnel for their response.
“The children were all cared for quickly by the school bus driver,” Hodapp said. “He did everything he could to react to what happened and try to avoid the collision, and then tried to minimize the injuries.”
Hodapp also said he was impressed with the response of the students’ parents.
“In a situation like this it’s terrifying for the parents and for the children, and it was all handled very well,” he said.
Responding to the scene were the Bemidji Fire Department, Bemidji Police Department, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office, the Minnesota State Patrol, Bemidji Ambulance, North Air Ambulance, Blackduck Ambulance, Cass Lake Ambulance, Minnesota Department of Transportation, Beltrami Highway Department, Bemidji Area Schools, Beltrami Industrial and Southside Towing, according to a release.
Bemidji Area Schools and Sanford Bemidji Medical Center staff handled crisis care with assistance from the Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center and several area pastors who responded to the Sanford Bemidji Medical Center Emergency Department with assistance.