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Tuesday
Sep 16th

Bus teetering at bridge guardrail, staff valiant in protecting children

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Fifty students and eight adult staff who were part of a Waite House summer program field trip to Bunker Hills on Wednesday, August 1 were involved in the Interstate 35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

A tractor-trailer truck pinned the yellow school bus against the bridge guardrail. But thanks to focused staffers and quick acting passersby, all the bus passengers were successfully evacuated. Fifty students and eight adult staff who were part of a Waite House summer program field trip to Bunker Hills on Wednesday, August 1 were involved in the Interstate 35W Mississippi River bridge collapse in Minneapolis.

A tractor-trailer truck pinned the yellow school bus against the bridge guardrail. But thanks to focused staffers and quick acting passersby, all the bus passengers were successfully evacuated.

The bridge collapsed at about 6pm at the tail end of Minneapolis' rush hour. Traffic was bumper to bumper, creeping at 5-10 mph. The bridge dumped some 50 vehicles into the river and onto concrete slabs under the bridge on each side of the river.

By late Thursday afternoon, four persons had been confirmed dead, but 20 to 30 were listed as missing. Authorities feared the death toll would rise as vehicles are pulled from the Mississippi River in the days following the tragic accident. Dozens remain hospitalized at Hennepin County Medical Center and other area hospitals. Grief and trauma counseling centers were set up at agencies and public facilities near the accident, assisting people still trying to find out about loved ones.

Cause of the bridge failure was not known, but federal, state and local officials insisted that no effort would be spared in determining the cause and in preventing the recurrence of such a failure anywhere else in the country.

Minnesota's legislative delegation Thursday reported on efforts to add $250 million to a Transportation Act emergency funding provision, with those funds targeted for the restoration or replacement of the 40 year old bridge. A fund of $100 million already exists and the request for additional money would specifically be directed to respond to this catastrophe.

Of the passengers on the bus who were evacuated, 15 received medical attention immediately following the accident, including 12 children, two staff people and the bus driver. As of 11:00 a.m. Thursday, two adults and two children remained hospitalized.

According to Pillsbury United Communities spokesperson Molly Schwartz, the eight Waite staffers were focused and heroic in their determination to get the kids out of the bus, off the bridge, and contained safely while and until parents and other authorities could be notified.
"They were valiant," she said.

Pillsbury United Communities-Waite House is providing counseling services for families involved in the accident. A fund has been established to provide assistance for medical bills.

Waite House is a neighborhood center of Pillsbury United Communities and is located in the Phillips neighborhood of Minneapolis. More information about Pillsbury United Communities available at www.puc-mn.org.
 

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