School bus stuck on railroad tracks in Independence

25 students leave bus safely 

A First Student school bus on Thursday, Feb. 20, was stuck on a Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad track in Independence, and the bus driver safely evacuated 25 students from the vehicle.

The incident happened at Valley Road, just north of Highway 12. West Hennepin Public Safety received a report about the stuck bus at 4:30 p.m. While responding to the scene, WHPS immediately called BNSF to stop all trains until further notice.

Upon arrival, officers found that the bus driver already had evacuated students from the bus.  They were standing alongside the road, safely away from the railroad tracks. Some students were put into squad cars, as they were cold and getting wet due to the occurring snow fall.

WHPS Director Ray McCoy said, “It was vitally important that the bus company immediately reported the incident so WHPS could get the trains stopped.”

Cause of the incident was poor road conditions due to heavy falling snow and compacted snow on the roadway, police said. School buses are required by state law to stop at all railroad crossings. As the First Student driver turned north on Valley Road she stopped on a slight incline at the railroad crossing. The bus lost traction on the incline as the driver tried to drive it over the railroad tracks. Then it slid into the ditch and was stuck across the tracks. The city of Independence Public Works was on the scene within minutes, according to WHPS. Public Works used its grader to pull the bus off of the tracks. Students returned to the bus and later returned to families. All were accounted for and none were injured.

WHPS Sgt. Gary Kroells said, “This was an excellent example of teamwork with West Hennepin Police, Orono Schools, city of Independence Public Works and Hennepin County Communications Dispatch working together for the safety of our community’s children.”