A charter bus empty except for a driver veered off a highway entrance ramp to Hwy. 280 near the Minneapolis-St. Paul border late Thursday morning and collided with another charter bus ferrying 50 people to the State Fair, authorities said.
Eight people were taken to hospitals with injuries. Both drivers were taken from the crash scene in Lauderdale to HCMC after being freed from the wreckage by emergency responders after about 20 minutes, officials said during a St. Paul Fire Department news briefing. The other injured people went to Regions Hospital in St. Paul.
Along with the people who went to hospitals, another 24 received treatment just after the crash for “bumps and bruises” but did not need further medical attention, said St. Paul Assistant Fire Chief Mike Gaede.
The drivers and one other person were considered to be in serious condition when they were taken from the scene of the crash, according to Dr. Bjorn Peterson of Regions Hospital. There were fewer than 10 children on the bus heading to the fair, and all escaped serious injury, Peterson said.
The drivers were listed in satisfactory condition Thursday night, an HCMC spokeswoman said.
The crash happened when a bus operated by Twin Cities-based Lorenz Bus Service, empty except for driver Carol Marie Hanson, 66, of East Bethel, veered off the entry ramp from westbound Larpenteur Avenue through a ditch onto southbound Hwy. 280, where it was struck by the other bus, which was carrying 50 passengers. The second bus, operated by Andy’s Charter Service, based in Little Falls, Minn., was driven by Carrie Ann Gasperlin, 58, of Cushing, Minn., the patrol said.
Traffic in Hwy. 280’s southbound lanes was blocked from the time the crash occurred about 10:30 a.m. until midafternoon. Northbound Hwy. 280 remained open.
Some of the passengers on the bus that was hit continued on to the fair, while others made plans to return to the Little Falls area.
State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank said investigators had not yet determined why the Lorenz bus went off course after leaving westbound Larpenteur and starting down the entrance ramp. Both drivers were wearing seat belts and alcohol was not a factor, the patrol said.
The Lorenz bus company issued a statement saying that it is cooperating with the investigation and that it has “the highest safety rating” possible from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
An overhead view of the crash scene revealed tire marks in the grass leading from the entrance ramp to Hwy. 280 all the way to the edge of the right-hand lane, where the two buses ended up.
“We’re very lucky,” Shank said. “We’re glad there’s not any fatalities in this. It’s summer, it’s our 100 deadliest days, so just make sure you plan ahead and always practice safe driving habits.”