Motorist in Cottonwood bus crash had no license

7:23 AM, Feb 21, 2008   |    comments
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The van driver who crashed into a school bus, killing four children and injuring several others, did not have a license to drive. 23 year old Alianiss Morales has an ID card, but no driving license. She was injured in the crash, and is listed in stable condition. The State Patrol refused to comment on Morales, whose van broadsided the bus at the intersection of a major highway and a county road Tuesday afternoon. Investigators did say there's a stop sign at the intersection. Two brothers were among the four students killed in the crash. A third fatality was the daughter of a teacher, and a fourth was the son of a former teacher. The Minnesota State Patrol identified the victims of Tuesday's crash as Jesse Javens, 13, and Hunter Javens, 9, both of Cottonwood; Reed Stevens, 12, of Marshall; and Emilee Olson, 9, of Cottonwood. They were among 28 students on a Lakeview School bus that was hit by a van as it carried students home from school Tuesday afternoon. At least 14 other people were hurt, including the drivers of the van and a pickup truck the bus rolled onto. "When a tragedy such as this impacts a community, it is very difficult to even come up with word to talk about it," Superintendent Sheldon Johnson said. "But we must move forward. We must attempt to meet the needs of those that are grieving." Johnson read a statement from Reed's mother, Candy Stevens, a former teacher at Lakeview. "She wants people to know that Reed was a young man who loved God, his country and his family. And he also loved his football family. We know that he is with the Lord, and we ask all parents to give their kids an extra hug tonight and every night." Earlier Wednesday, students and staff streamed into the school. Grief counselors and clergy were available, and classes were canceled. Heidi Klocow and her daughter, Rylee, who is a third-grader at the school, said they knew the victims. "It's terrible for the families. We knew a lot of people on that bus," Heidi Klocow said. One victim was a classmate of Rylee's. "She was a really good friend and I'll always remember her in my heart," Rylee said. The patrol was reconstructing the crash and couldn't immediately say why it occurred. The van was heading east on County Road 24, which has a stop sign as it ends in a T intersection with state Highway 23, the road the bus was traveling. The immpact of the van rolled the school bus onto its side, and onto a pickup. The pickup was driven by James M. Hancock, 45, of Marshall. The bus was driven by Dennis Deveraux, 52, of Cottonwood. Lakeview has about 585 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, serving Cottonwood and the nearby town of Wood Lake. The area is about 140 miles west of Minneapolis. Johnson said the school planned to resume classes on Thursday. "We want to get back into a routine," he said. Johnson said an ecumenical service was planned for 7 p.m. Thursday at the school. Four people remained at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center on Wednesday. Two were in good condition, and two stable, spokeswoman Deann Holland said. She did not have their ages. Five of the injured were at Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls, S.D. Spokesman Kenyon Gleason said one student was in critical condition, three in fair condition, and one adult was in fair condition. One person was in stable condition at Sandford Hospital in Sioux Falls, Holland said. Motorists who came upon the crash described a chaotic scene. "I parked my car and called 911, and ran to the school bus and the driver was handing kids out the door as fast as I could take them," Karen Mahlum told the Marshall Independent. "They were screaming and screaming on the bus. There was so many kids," she said. Rescue crews from Cottonwood and surrounding communities were quick on the scene, and many of the emergency workers knew many of the students on the bus. "It's a very rural community, a very close community," Sgt. Kathy Pederson of the Minnesota State Patrol said. "These kids are known in the community and they are going to be missed," said Ray Glenn, pastor of Swan Lake Evangelical Free Church. Gov. Tim Pawlenty issued a statement calling it "a sad night for Minnesota." "It is especially heartbreaking when young lives are lost," he said. "Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were killed or injured in this tragic accident." When Fire Chief Dale Louwagie was asked what the community could do, he said simply, "Pray." Jim Knudsen, a church member, said it's "always a shock when something like this happens." "Our church right now is praying for people, and I know we'll support people in the days to come," he said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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