Updated: Aug. 23, 7:25 a.m. | Posted: Aug. 22, 11:33 a.m.
Eight people were taken to the hospital Thursday following a morning crash of two charter buses near the Minnesota State Fair that shut down a stretch of southbound Minnesota Highway 280 through late afternoon.
Preliminary information from the State Patrol indicates a bus from Lorenz Bus Service, a company with a contract to ferry people to the fair, was taking a left from Larpenteur Avenue to go onto southbound Highway 280 but came down the grassy embankment, colliding with a bus from Little Falls, Minn.-based Andy’s Charter Services.
The State Patrol said alcohol was not a factor in the crash.
The Andy’s Charter bus had 51 people riding on it, including the driver, while the Lorenz bus was empty except for the driver said St. Paul Assistant Fire Chief Mike Gaede.
There was one child on the bus at the time of the crash, according to Stephen Jones, superintendent of the Little Falls Community Schools. He said the bus was a “charter run through our community services program” as an adult trip to the State Fair.
The eight people transported to the hospital had mostly “lacerations, bumps and bruises,” Jones said. “Nothing life-threatening at this point.” The passengers who weren’t injured were to be transported back to Little Falls by another charter bus Thursday afternoon.
Robert Janey, from Little Falls, said he had taken the bus before to visit the State Fair. He heard someone shout just before impact.
"Everyone was yelling, are you OK, are you OK?,” Janey said. “Some were bloody, some were shaken, some were in panic, some were yelling, ‘Is my family OK?’"
The two drivers — Andy’s bus driver Carrie Ann Gasperlin, 58 of Cushing and Lorenz driver Carol Marie Hanson, 66 of East Bethel — were among the eight people transported to hospitals, and they appeared to have the most serious injuries. St. Paul fire officials said the drivers were pinned in their buses and crews needed to extricating equipment to free them.
Hennepin Healthcare said both drivers were in satisfactory condition Friday morning.
In a statement, Lorenz said it is fully cooperating with authorities to determine the cause of the accident. The company noted it holds the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s highest safety rating.
Highway 280 reopened completely just before 4 p.m.