MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The first day of the Minnesota State Fair got off to a dangerous start for dozens just a mile away from the fun, food and festivities.
At 10:20 a.m. Thursday, an empty Lorenz tour bus, turning onto the southbound Highway 280 entrance ramp from Hennepin Avenue, suddenly lost control and careened down the grassy embankment.
“At that time the bus continued to go left through the grass area of embankment down the road. At that point it made contact with the median barrier,” State Patrol Lt. Gordon Shank said.
The bus driver crashed head-on into the concrete median. It stretched across both southbound lanes, giving oncoming traffic no safe place around. At that moment, another tour bus carrying passengers from Little Falls slammed into it.
“I saw the Lorenz bus come down the embankment,” a bruised Jody Arbuckle said.
Arbuckle was among the 49 passengers making their way from Little Falls to Falcon Heights when the crash happened. She describes the violent impact as it slammed into the side of the Lorenz bus.
“There was no way Carrie our driver could get out of that, there’s just no way. I said, ‘We’re going to hit,'” Arbuckle said.
She was able to escape the ordeal with a few bruises, but others were seriously hurt.
Bystander video from WCCO’s Mark Butcher shows paramedics treating the injured. Meanwhile, it would take firefighters and paramedics about 20 minutes to free the two pinned drivers.
“Fire crews used equipment to extricate and free each driver from the bus with the help of EMS to stabilize each driver,” St. Paul Fire Captain Steve Cunningham said.
Both drivers were taken to HCMC in serious condition. Six passengers were transported and treated at Regions Hospital with mostly minor injuries.
“Most of the injuries we saw were people impacting the seat in front of them, so a lot of knee and shin contusions, facial contusions, bruises,” Dr. Bjorn Peterson, Regions EMS Medical Director, said.
For those not hospitalized, they were checked out and transported back home.
“I’m ready to go home, maybe the State Fair next year,” Arbuckle said.
The highway was shut down for 5 hours. Authorities still don’t know what caused the first bus to go off the road.