(AP) - As the small Minnesota town of Cottonwood continued to grieve the four children killed, attention was turning to what caused the worst school bus crash in the state in two decades.
The National Transportation Safety Board was joining the Minnesota State Patrol in the investigation, as details started to emerge about a van involved in the accident and its driver.
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 van struck the bus, which rolled over onto a truck.
The driver of the truck told the Star Tribune of Minneapolis that he saw the van run the stop sign.
"I saw the maroon van run a stop sign, it blew over the railroad tracks and hit the bus, sending it sliding into me," James M. Hancock, 45, of Marshall, told the newspaper from his hospital bed in Sioux Falls, S.D. "The next thing I knew, they were hauling kids out and it was chaos."
Hancock did not want to give interviews Thursday, said Kenyon Gleason, a spokesman for Avera McKennan in Sioux Falls, S.D.
The driver of the van, Alianiss Nunes Morales, 23, was ticketed in 2006 for driving without a license in Chippewa County, Minn.
A Montevideo woman had called police after discovering Morales' car was in her yard. According to the citation, she told the officer that it looked like Morales "does not know how to drive."
Morales pleaded guilty and paid $182 in fines and other charges. She had a Montevideo address at the time.
State Patrol officials said Thursday they could not confirm whether Morales ran a stop sign.
Lt. Mark Peterson said that was still under investigation, but that the investigation was "moving forward very quickly."
Morales could not be immediately reached for comment and did not have a listed phone number. Mary Maertens, CEO of Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center in Marshall, would not confirm a report that Morales was one of the two injured patients at her hospital, but said neither of them wanted to speak to reporters.
The Minnesota State Patrol identified the victims 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 the 28 students on the Lakeview School bus. At least 14 other people were hurt.
A memorial service was planned for Thursday night in the gymnasium of Lakeview School. Gov. Tim Pawlenty planned to attend, as well as Minnesota's two U.S. senators, Norm Coleman and Amy Klobuchar. Locals expected most of Cottonwood's 1,150 residents to be in attendance.
Classes resumed Thursday at Lakeview School.
The bus was driven by Dennis Devereaux, 52, of Cottonwood.
Nine of the injured remained hospitalized Thursday morning but all were improving, Maertens said.
Two of the injured - one student and one adult - were in stable condition at Avera Marshall, Maertens said. Five students and one adult were at Avera McKennan Hospital in Sioux Falls, where she said two were in serious condition and four were in fair condition.
The patients in Sioux Falls included one who transferred Wednesday from the Marshall hospital. A student who had been at Avera McKennan was transferred to the Mayo Clinic in Rochester to be closer to family and was in fair condition as of Wednesday afternoon, Maertens said. A patient at Sanford USD Medical Center in Sioux Falls was released Wednesday, she said.
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.
The Cottonwood crash was the deadliest involving a school bus in Minnesota since at least 1985, said Nathan Bowie, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety.
(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)