MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — One child is dead, two others are injured and another is missing after a hillside gave way Wednesday during a fourth grade fossil-hunting field trip at a St. Paul park, according to city Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard.
The two injured children were taken to Regions Hospital. One had minor injuries and was treated and released. The other is in serious condition.
Zaccard said multiple crews will search for the missing child Thursday. The search effort, which was called off for the night, is now considered a recovery effort, not a rescue mission. The search is taking place in an area that’s 50 feet by 50 feet — roughly the size of a house. Lights were set up and dogs were on the scene Wednesday night, trying to find the student. The search will pick up again in the morning.
Crews first responded to the scene at Lilydale Regional Park around 1 p.m., where two fourth grade classes from Peter Hobart Elementary were on a field trip, Zaccard said. The kids were in a group exploring a hillside, looking for fossils, when the ground gave way. The rock slide created a sinkhole, which then quickly filled with water and sand.
Crews, when they arrived at the scene, used shovels and their hands to dig the children out.
The first child was rescued right away. But it took crews an hour to get to the second child, who was half-submerged in water, and 90 minutes to reach the third, who was totally submerged.
Rainy weather hindered the search for the missing student through the afternoon and evening.
“We’re working with our partners in parks and public works to make the scene safe to continue what’s now become a recovery effort for what might be another victim,” Zaccard said.
Crews tried to make the scene safe Wednesday night, using fire hoses to wash away loose dirt before it fell on searchers, Zaccard said. Digging had stopped earlier, and crews set up lights, preparing to search into the night, he said.
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman described the efforts of the first responders as “unbelievably heroic.”
Two firefighters suffered injuries. One hurt his back, and a rock hit another on the head. Both are expected to be OK.
Parents at Peter Hobart Elementary said they were sick and heartbroken when they heard of the tragedy. More on that story here.
Lilydale Regional Park is a popular place to search for fossils. Local resident Adam Farrell said people often find shells and leaf imprints on the rocks in the park, which has some high cliffs near the Mississippi River.
“It’s actually pretty fascinating, especially when you are a little kid, to find yourself a fossil,” Farrell said.
Another school, according to authorities, also had a field trip at the park earlier Wednesday morning.
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