November 21, 2014

Both drivers, two students die in Blue Hill bus crash (UPDATED)

Four people have died, including two students, in a school bus crash in south-central Nebraska.

Five other children were injured. One is listed in serious condition at Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, where she was transferred after being stabilized at Mary Lanning Memorial Hospital in Hastings.

The Nebraska State Patrol reports the crash occurred just before 5pm Wednesday at the intersection of county road “R” and 1800 Road in Webster County south of the community of Blue Hill. A Blue Hill District school bus, eastbound on county road “R”, collided with a semi-tractor trailer hauling hay bales. The semi was northbound on 1800 Road. The collision knocked the truck into a field in the northeastern corner of the intersection and engulfed the truck in flames. The fire spread to the bus, which landed in a ditch.

NSP reports that 21-year-old Travis Witte of Blue Hill, the driver of the semi, Marla Wentworth, 59, Red Cloud, the driver of the school bus, and two students riding the bus, 18-year-old Dustin Tesdahl of Blue Hill and 10-year-old Caroline Thallman of Blue Hill, were killed in the crash. All four died at the scene of the accident.

Five children suffered injuries, some suffering burns.

Lisa Brandt with Mary Lanning Healthcare told Nebraska Radio Network affiliate KICS that the injured children ranged in ages from six to 10 years old. In addition to the girl airlifted to Omaha, a girl is listed in stable condition, being treated for lacerations and burns to her hands and feet; a boy is listed in stable condition with non-life threatening injuries; and another boy was treated and released last night.

In addition, a 6-year old girl was treated and released from Brodstone Memorial Hospital in Superior.

“Our first concern is for the families of those affected by Wednesday’s events, “said Sara Bockstadter, Webster County Attorney said in a written statement released by NSP. “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 Nebraska State Patrol is assisting 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 assisted at the scene of the accident.

The Blue Hill Community School District has set up a crisis center at the school in Blue Hill, 606 South Sycamore Street, to assist students and their families.

Blue Hill is a small community located approximately 20 miles south of Hastings in south-central Nebraska.

Tyson Havranek, KICS, contributed to this report.