Four people died Wednesday afternoon when a Blue Hill school bus collided with a semi-truck and trailer loaded with hay.The vehicles collided in an intersection. Both ended up off the road, engulfed in flames, Nebraska State Patrol spokeswoman Deb Collins said.
Semi-truck driver Travis Witte, 21, of Blue Hill, school bus driver Marla Wentworth, 59, of Red Cloud, and two Blue Hill students were killed.
The student’s were Dustin Tesdahl, 18, and Caroline Thallman, 10.
Five other students ranging in age from 6-10 were taken to hospitals – three to Mary Lanning Hospital in Hastings.
A 7-year old girl was flown by medical helicopter to Children’s Hospital in Omaha.
A 6-year old girl was treated and released from Brodstone Memorial Hospital in Superior.
A 10-year old boy and an 8-year old girl student were admitted to Mary Lanning, where a 7-year old boy was treated and released, Collins said.
The crash occurred just before 5 p.m. at the intersection of county road “R” and 1800 Road in Webster County, south of Blue Hill.
“Our first concern is for the families of those affected by Wednesday’s events,” Webster County Attorney Sara Bockstadter said. “Our hearts go out to everyone who has been touched by this tragedy. We ask for your consideration as our communities begin to process what has happened and work toward healing.”
The wreck occured about 25 miles south of Hastings. The Blue Hill District school bus was eastbound on county road “R” when it collided with the hay truck, Collins said. The semi was northbound on 1800 Road.
The vehicles came to rest in the ditch/field in the northeast corner of the intersection, engulfed in flames, she said.
The Nebraska State Patrol assisted the Webster County Sheriff’s Office and the Webster County Attorney with the accident investigation. The Blue Hill, Hastings, Lawrence and Red Cloud Fire and Rescue Squads, and the Hastings and Superior Police Departments also helped.
A crisis center was set up at the Blue Hill school to help students and their families, Collins said.