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Investigators: Fatal Rockslide Was Not Predictable

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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO/AP) — An investigation into a landslide that killed two children on a field trip, found it was the result of natural causes.

Two independent investigations found soil erosion at Lilydale Regional Park. A rainy spring and foot traffic on unmarked trails were also factors.

Back in May, a large mass fell from a steep bluff overlooking the fossil bed.

At that time, fourth graders from a school in St. Louis Park were hunting for fossils.

Four children were trapped. Two died.

Mohamed Fofana and Haysem Sani were fourth graders at Peter Hobart Elementary.

The images are unforgettable.

Crews looking for missing children after a landslide invades a fourth grade classes search for fossils near Lilydale Park’s East Clay Pit.

“While tragic was not an incident that we could have predicted the tragic nature and consequences of what happened were not predictable or forecast able,” said St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman.

Mayor Coleman calls Lilydale a wilderness in the city and restoring it to its natural state with minimal maintenance has always been the plan.

“We can’t guarantee safety in the wild and natural area like Lilydale Park but are there some things we can do better to give group leaders or others who use the park more knowledge of how they should measure that risk and handle it I think is appropriate,” Coleman said.

Coleman says the city was aware of another slope failure caused by natural soil erosion back in 2011.

“The issue that we were asked to investigate was what people knew before the accident what they understood what they appreciated,” said Donald Lewis.

The investigations said the city’s knowledge of soil erosion was insufficient to predict the landslide in May of 2013.

The city is aware that soil erosion is prevalent along the 17 miles of bluffs.

There was a recommendation for a feasibility study on soil erosion in 2009 but had not been implemented by the time of the landslide.

Parents we spoke with say now that they know how and why this happened, they can begin to heal.

Certain areas of Lilydale have been closed off and there have been no more permits granted for fossil hunting in the area.

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