C-I school bus hits truck, trailers
IRONTON -- A 70-year-old Ironton man sitting at his desk inside his business was hospitalized Thursday, when a school bus ran off the road and pushed a trailer through the building wall.
IRONTON - A 70-year-old Ironton man sitting at his desk inside his business was hospitalized Thursday, when a school bus ran off the road and pushed a trailer through the building wall.
George "Bud" Hanson, 70, was treated and released from Cuyuna Regional Medical Center in Crosby, a hospital official confirmed Thursday. The driver of the Crosby-Ironton school bus was placed in a North Memorial ambulance and transported from the scene. Multiple witnesses at the scene identified the bus driver as Gerald Fisher, 68, Crosby. The 27 schoolchildren on the bus were uninjured.
The school bus crash was reported shortly before 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Bud's Small Engine Repair, 20233 Hematite St. What caused the driver to leave the road and crash was unclear.
According to witnesses at the scene, the bus first crashed into a pickup truck in front of the business, pushing it sideways, before crashing into two trailers, pushing one through the side of the building. The pickup truck knocked down a power pole in the process, and live electrical wires were lying in the road for a time.
A crowd gathered around the scene of the crash, including neighbors, parents of the children on the bus and family members of the injured business owner.
Shawn Hanson, the victim's nephew, and his girlfriend, Fawn Fortune, were inside the business moments before the crash occurred. The couple went inside the nearby home, and that's when Shawn Hanson said he noticed the utility pole shaking violently outside the window.
"I saw the telephone pole moving and thought, well the wind can't be that strong," Shawn Hanson said.
That's when he stepped outside the house, saw the school bus and noticed his uncle's truck was pushed 90 degrees. Bud Hanson was unconscious when his nephew found him moments after the incident, although was not visibly bleeding.
"He was sitting right next to this wall that was pushed in," Shawn Hanson said, pointing to the north-facing wall of his uncle's business. When his uncle regained consciousness, Shawn Hanson said he asked for his son, Joshua Hanson.
Joshua Hanson lives in a home a few houses away from the business. He said he hoped his father was OK, but knew Bud Hanson would be more concerned about the shop than himself.
"We just had the siding finished on there, too," Joshua Hanson said. "I just built a new addition on there for him and had the siding put on."
Joshua Hanson said he was concerned about the bus driver, Fisher, as well. The driver was a family friend, he said.
Crosby-Ironton Superintendent Jamie Skjeveland arrived on the scene of the crash while investigators attempted to reconstruct the events. Skjeveland stood by a second bus as children were loaded onto it to complete their rides home. At the time, Skjeveland said first priority was ensuring the children arrived home safely. He would then seek to inform parents of all Crosby-Ironton students of the situation.
Reached at 6:30 p.m., Skjeveland said a call was placed to all parents with a recorded message, detailing what was known at the time. Skjeveland described the incident as serious.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the homeowner and the bus driver," Skjeveland told parents in the message.
School buses used by the Crosby-Ironton School District are owned by Crosby-Ironton Transportation Inc. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the company operates 26 school buses and five vans. No previous crashes were listed on the company's safety record.
Some parents who learned of the crash earlier stood by at the scene, waiting for Crosby Chief Kim Coughlin and other responders to release their children from the crashed bus.
John Ball stood in the middle of Hematite Street, waiting for two of his children who were still on the bus. Two other of his children were already released. Ball said he received a phone call from the mechanic at the bus garage, letting him know his kids would be late.
"He said it was going to be late and that's all we knew," Ball said. "And someone came to the house and said, 'Your kids' bus was in an accident,' so we just came down."
Ball said he was told officials were releasing the children one or two at a time, to ensure they were tracking each of the 27 kids and their whereabouts.
A short time later, Ball's daughters, Ellie and Evelynn, were escorted to him. The girls said the bus was nearly full at the time and had made just a few stops before the crash occurred.
"The bus shook and I saw some stuff falling down toward the window, so I grabbed onto the seat in front of me," Ellie, 12, said.
Ellie said the emergency exit door on the top of the bus flew off during the crash, and she saw the power pole fall to the ground behind them.
"I was stiff for two seconds, and then I screamed," Ellie said.
Ball said he and his family moved to the area a year ago, but he'd known Fisher since he was a small child when both lived in the city of Pengilly, nearly two hours away.
"I used to mow his lawn," he said.
Standing farther from the scene was Quinn Wikelius. Wikelius said her younger brother, Max Winn, was dropped off just two blocks before the crash occurred. She was concerned about Fisher, who is her pastor at Bible Baptist Church in Crosby.
"He's just a super nice guy," Wikelius said. "He's the nicest guy I've ever met, I think."
A number of agencies assisted at the scene of the crash: Crosby Police Department, Deerwood Police Department, Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office, Minnesota State Patrol, North Memorial Ambulance and Cuyuna Regional Medical Center ambulance.