St. Paul park mudslide turns school trip into deadly nightmare

A saturated slope in Lilydale Regional Park collapsed, killing one fourth-grader and leaving another buried.

St. Paul authorities said Thursday morning that they would resume their search for a 4th grader missing after a mudslide during a school trip at a St. Paul park.

The search should begin sometime between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m., said Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard.


An elementary school field trip in St. Paul turned deadly Wednesday when the earth gave way on a Mississippi River bluff, killing one child and leaving another buried beneath the fallen hillside.

Confronted by darkness and dangerous conditions, authorities called off the search shortly after 10 p.m., when a search dog returned from the slope without finding a scent of the buried child.

The family of the missing student stood vigil Wednesday night, hoping for news about the missing 10-year-old, said a man who said he was the boy’s uncle. The fourth-grader “liked geology,” he said.

Authorities plan to meet at 7 a.m. Thursday to continue the search.

“These rescuers are, what I consider, devastated,” said Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard. “They were in grave danger of the collapse continuing on them,” he said.

Two other children from Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park were injured in the landslide deep within Lilydale Regional Park, a popular destination for school students searching for fossils.

The steep slope had been saturated with rain in recent days. The city requires permits for using the area and warns that it can be hazardous. City officials said Wednesday they would review the afternoon accident and consider possible changes.

“We want to make sure that things are safe,” said Brad Meyer, a spokesman for the city Department of Parks and Recreation.

The students were among almost 50 students in two fourth-grade classes from Hobart who were hiking in the park when a wet hillside of mud, sand and gravel gave way about 1:15 p.m., sending the children tumbling about 30 feet, Zaccard said.

Rescuers struggled to reach the slide area, about a quarter mile from a road. But once there, rescuers worked in waist-deep mud, using their bare hands and shovels to dig the students out.

“We have one that’s half exposed, another one that’s totally buried,” one emergency worker reported in police scanner audio posted at Minnesota Police Clips. “We have quite a few yards of sand on top of one of them. One of the kids was digging him out.”

Authorities on the scene quickly put out a call for more shovels and requested a trench-rescue rig.

‘We’re all digging right now’

“We’re all digging right now,” an emergency worker said over the scanner. “All we need is shovels. … We’re hand digging right now.”

Zaccard said it took crews 45 minutes to rescue one child, who was buried waist-deep, and another hour for them to recover the body of the dead child. A third child suffered an ankle injury.

The rescued children were taken to Regions Hospital.

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