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Small Town Deals With Deadly School Bus-Train Collision

November 17, 1990

MILTONA, Minn. (AP) _ Residents of this town of 170 people dealt with feelings of helplessness and sorrow on Friday after a school bus collided with a train, killing two people and injuring 21 others.

″It is just horrendous,″ said Sheila Olson, principal at the Miltona Science Magnet School.

Olson said many students wanted to rush to the accident scene near the school because they had just gotten off the bus and some had older brothers and sisters still aboard.

″I still can’t believe it happened,″ Olson said. ″It’s just not real. And the kids, many were crying, wanting their parents and you just feel so helpless. You just don’t know what to do.″

The Douglas County Sheriff’s Department identified the victims as bus driver Fred Beman, 66, of Alexandria, and 9-year-old Kristian Rindahl of rural Carlos, who attended Zion Lutheran School in Alexandria.

Five of the injured were in stable condition at Douglas County Hospital in Alexandria with a variety of fractures and internal injuries, said hospital spokeswoman Verna Pauley.

Fourteen people had been treated and released and another two were waiting to be discharged late Friday, she said.

The accident happened around 7:30 a.m. Friday in Miltona, about 100 miles northwest of Minneapolis. The cause was not immediately known, but Douglas County Sheriff Terry Eilers said preliminary interviews with witnesses indicated the driver may have rolled the vehicle into the train.

Deanna Schultz, secretary for the Miltona school, said the bus had just dropped off some children at the school and was on its way to the high school in Alexandria.

Bob Stier, transportation supervisor for the Alexandria school system, which owns the bus, said about 25 students were aboard when the accident happened.

″The front end of the bus got hit,″ Stier said. ″It was a flat-nosed bus and it (the train) hit the side where the driver was.

″The bus got spun around, then the front end of the bus hit a light pole,″ Stier said, adding that the train did not derail. There were no injuries on the train, officials said.

Alexandria school Superintendent George Cassell said Beman had been with the school district 10 years and had an excellent driving record.

″We are in shock. (We’re) just having a hard time understanding what happened today,″ he said. Cassell said state and federal investigators were expected to arrive Friday afternoon.

The school district brought in a team of counselors to help comfort the children, Olson said.

″I just simply stood in the halls as students were walking back and forth between their rooms and just shared hugs with some of the children who were in tears and very frightened by it,″ said Nancy Larson, a Lutheran minister from Carlos.

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