(AP) More than 20 people were hurt, four critically, in a school bus crash Friday apparently caused by faulty brakes.
The four with the most serious injuries were two students and two adult drivers of vehicles struck by the bus about 8:54 a.m., said Capt. Dave Jenkins of the Anoka County Sheriff's Office. The injured were not identified.
He said the bus was driving north on state Highway 65 when it turned east toward McKinley Elementary school. He said it appeared the driver tried to brake, but the brakes didn't work.
"He pushed on the pedal and it was rock-hard," Jenkins said. "He just said that he tried to apply the brakes, and they failed." The driver wasn't seriously hurt.
The bus struck an SUV that was waiting at the red light. It eventually came to rest against a light pole. A station wagon, which was heavily damaged, was also involved, he said. The drivers of both vehicles were critically hurt.
Maleck Terrion, a clerk at a nearby convenience store, said he heard the accident. "I dropped the phone that was in my hand and ran out to the maroon SUV," he said.
Inside were two children and their mother. The kids were "a little banged up" but the woman was more seriously hurt. Terrion, whose white T-shirt was spattered with blood, said he helped the children out.
The school district said about two dozen people were taken to local hospitals, including both adults and students. McKinley principal Mark Van Voorhis said 18 of the 40 or so students on the bus were taken to area hospitals.
"We do not have information about the condition of those students, but we do know that some of them were transported as a precaution," he said.
Chuck Holden, director of operations for the district, said the bus was last inspected in February. "I am not aware of any problems with the vehicle," he said, but noted that the accident was under investigation.
North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale, which is about 20 miles south of Ham Lake, was evaluating about a dozen accident victims. Spokesman Robert Prevost said two of them arrived by helicopter ambulance.
In Minneapolis, Hennepin County Medical Center spokeswoman Kathy Roberts said the hospital was assessing two children. She had no other details.
In Coon Rapids, Mercy Hospital spokeswoman Gloria O'Connell said two adults and 10 children were being treated there. One had a head wound, but most patients had orthopedic injuries, including broken bones. Nearby Unity Hospital was also seeing patients from the bus crash.
The district said that students who were on the bus but were not hurt were taken to McKinley Elementary. School officials said that by late morning Friday they had contacted all the parents of injured children.
The number of school bus crashes in Minnesota has held relatively steady over the past few years, according to data kept by the Department of Public Safety. In 2005, the most recent year with complete data, there were 717 crashes involving school buses, up slightly from the 702 the year before.
The bus crashes in 2005 resulted in seven deaths - all but one of those killed were drivers of vehicles that collided with the buses. Of the 250 people injured in the crashes, 91 were bus passengers.