By MARGARET STAFFORD, Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 17-year-old boy with a provisional driver's license was behind the wheel when a converted semitrailer crashed on a Kansas highway, killing five members of his Minnesota family who were on vacation to see a motocross race, authorities said Monday.
According to the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Adam Kerber's license includes several restrictions, including that all occupants of the vehicle wear seatbelts when available. Only two of the 18 people aboard were belted in, but it wasn't clear if belts were available for those passengers riding in the trailer.
The Freightliner truck broke through a guardrail and went into a ravine Sunday morning near Williamsburg, about 70 miles southwest of Kansas City, Mo. The 13 people who survived were injured, and at least two remained in critical condition Monday.
The patrol identified the dead as Melissa Kerber, 24, and Tom Kerber, 25, of New Prague, Minn., and Jessica Kerber, 10, Joy Kerber, 14, and James Kerber, 12, of Jordan, Minn.
Pauline Kerber, 46, of Jordan, Minn., a widowed mother of 12, was in critical but stable condition Monday morning. Her 17-year-old son Adam Kerber, who was driving the vehicle, was in critical condition.
A neighbor of Pauline Kerber's, Mary Jo Marks, told The Associated Press that Pauline Kerber and her family live about a half-mile from the Scott County fairgrounds, which hosts motocross races. She said the family was spending spring break on a big motocross trip.
Marks said Pauline Kerber home-schooled the children until several years ago. She said Tom Kerber was the oldest of the children and was married to Melissa. Kerber's late husband, Glen, operated an auto store on the family property.
Overland Park Regional Medical Center, where Pauline and Adam Kerber are hospitalized, released a statement Sunday night on behalf of the family thanking the public for the "outpouring of love and support."
"We appreciate the prayers of so many, and appreciate you respecting our privacy as we mourn our deep loss," said the statement from the hospital, which also treated a critically injured 8-year-old boy before transferring him to a children's hospital.
Patton M. Hammers Payton, 2, of Chaska, Minn., was in good condition Monday at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Matt Vanbank, 16, of Jordan, Minn., was also upgraded to fair condition Monday at the hospital.
Other victims were taken to area hospitals, including Overland Park Regional Medical Center, which had two victims listed in critical condition Monday.
Kirk Nelson, superintendent of Jordan Public School District in Minnesota, said students had last week off for spring break, and students were scheduled to return Monday. The district planned to have several additional grief counselors and ministers on hand.
"It's a big shock to everybody, that's for sure," he said. "We've got some good staff, and they'll all come together," he said. "We'll get started on healing."
Associated Press reporter Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)