Reporting John Lauritsen
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – Authorities said a 13-year-old girl died Sunday at Gillette Children’s Hospital after injuries suffered Saturday in a western Wisconsin snowmobile accident during a safety training course.
Officers were called to the parking lot at Osceola High School at about 9:11 a.m. Saturday on a report of an injured 13-year-old girl. When authorities arrived, they learned the girl had been part of a snowmobile safety course put on by the Wisconsin DNR. A snowmobile she was on accelerated before going off a course and crashing into a loading dock.
The girl, later identified as Sara Thorsland, was immediately given medical attention by her mother and first responders before being taken to the Osceola Medical Center for treatment. She was then airlifted to the Regions Hospital Trauma Center in St. Paul before being transferred to Gillette Children’s Hospital, where she died of her injuries Sunday afternoon.
Authorities said it appears she was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident and was driving around a slow-speed course made up of a pattern of traffic cones. Osceola Police and the Wisconsin DNR are still investigating why the snowmobile accelerated before the crash.
Mackenzie Rider was Thorsland’s neighbor and classmate at Osceola Middle School. She says Thorsland had a beautiful smile and a bright future.
“When she’d get on the bus she’s always smiles and giggles and everything. I mean, she just brought cheer wherever she went,” Mackenzie said. “It didn’t matter where she was, she was just happy.”
While her school remains in shock, they are also remembering Thorsland any way they can. Seventh grader Katrina Justus says students used markers to make personal memorials.
“If they had purple markers they would write ‘S.T.’ under their eyes,” Justus said. “Me and a couple other friends wrote hearts on our face in purple for her too.”
The school district released this statement Monday:
The Osceola School District and community suffered a tragic loss October 27, when Sarah Thorsland, an Osceola Middle School student, passed away. The thoughts and prayers of the entire Osceola School District and community go out to the family.
She was a wonderful young lady who loved to dance. Her smile could light up a room. She will be greatly missed by the entire Osceola School District, especially her close friends and teachers.
The Osceola Middle School staff will provide grief counselors at the school to help students, family and friends deal with their thoughts and feelings associated with the loss.
The class she was in was being taught by volunteers from a local snowmobile club and had 42 students in it. Half of the students had completed the course before the accident.
The Wisconsin DNR has been teaching the safety course for more than 40 years to kids between the ages of 12 and 16.
Police said an initial inspection of the snowmobile did not reveal a cause for the accident.