Car Driver Hurt in School Bus-Car Crash
No children were on bus in crash at the railroad crossing on northbound Hwy. 65 just south of 73rd Avenue NE in Fridley.
No children were on board a school bus involved in a crash with a car on Hwy. 65 Wednesday.
An Allina ambulance took the driver of the car to Hennepin County Medical Center, according to Fridley Fire Chief John Berg.
The school bus driver was not hurt.
The crash happened at about 9:30 a.m. in the right northbound lane of Hwy. 65, at the railroad grade crossing south of 73rd Avenue NE.
The car's driver was "up and walking" after the crash, Berg said, but he added that incidents with extensive vehicle damage carry the potential for serious injury.
'It was just ... ram!'
The crash appeared to have happened when the bus stopped at the railroad crossing, according to Fridley Police Off. Jason Cardinal. The front end of the car was crumpled under the bus' rear bumper and the windshield shattered.
The bus driver, who wouldn't give his name, said he had stopped at the tracks as required by law, turned on the bus' four-way lights and was in the process of opening the bus' front door to look down the tracks—all as required by law.
That's when the car hit, he said: "It was just ... ram!"
The crash activated the bus' rear-door alarm and stopped the front door from opening the rest of the way, the bus driver said.
A State Patrol inspector on the scene who tested the bus' brake and four-way lights did not give any indication that they weren't working.
'It's in the manual'
School bus drivers must stop at all railroad crossings, said Mustafa Wake of the bus company, Transit America, at the crash scene. That's true even if the bus has no passengers, no train is present, and the crossing is on a high-speed road like Hwy. 65, he said.
"It's in the [school bus drivers'] manual," he added.
Wake said the bus was returning to base after transporting students to a charter school.
School buses aren't the only vehicles that state law requires to stop at all railroad crossings, according to Fridley Police Off. Ryan George. Other vehicles that must stop at crossings include those carrying hazardous materials and high-occupancy vehicles such as buses that are carrying more than 15 passengers.
At other highway railroad crossings, George said, vehicles can pull onto the shoulder at railroad crossings rather than crossing in a driving lane. At the section of Hwy. 65 where Wednesday's crash took place, however, the shoulder is a right-turn lane.
The crash site is just east of Medtronic's Rice Creek West facility.
It was an hour before the crushed car was towed from the scene. Schmit Towing's Aaron Mather said he thought at first he could handle it with his truck alone, but hooks below the bus' rear bumper had snagged the car front end.
Mather used his truck to lift the bus off the car, then a second tow truck pulled the car out from under the bus; Mather picked the car's mangled hood from the ground.
Lightly Used Spur Tracks
As traffic whizzed past the crash scene at highway speed—even honking at one point—Chief Berg and other emergency responders at the scene said they had not seen a similar crash in Fridley before.
The crossing is on Minnesota Commercial Railway spur track that serves as few as two industrial customers in Fridley to the west, Berg said.
Wednesday is the first day of school for the Fridley School District and the second day for nearby Columbia Heights and Spring Lake Park districts.