Two Battle Creek school students suffered head injuries following a collision involving a Mid-States school bus and a semi-trailer truck west of Norfolk early Monday morning.
The bus was transporting 13 Battle Creek Public Schools students at the time of the accident. Those students ranged from kindergarten to eighth grade.
One of the students was identified Monday afternoon as 11-year-old Bailey Hurlburt. She was listed as being in serious condition at Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Ray Sencenbaugh, head of the emergency department at Faith Regional Health Services in Norfolk, said two of the students suffered head injuries serious enough to have them be transported to hospitals in Omaha — one to Creighton University Medical Center and the other to Children’s Hospital.
They were taken by ambulance rather than by helicopter because of the lingering foggy conditions Monday morning, Sencenbaugh said.
The two students were not being identified as of mid-Monday morning.
At least six other students were injured and taken to Faith Regional. They were expected to be treated and released yet Monday, he said.
Jay Bellar, Battle Creek Public Schools superintendent, was at Faith Regional and said there were “a lot of anxious moments” at the hospital.
Sencenbaugh said Faith Regional called in extra personnel — coordinated by Dr. Lisa Yosten — after the hospital was alerted of the situation and the possible number of injured students.
It was a highly emotional scene when parents were able to reunite with their children at the hospital, he said.
Several rescue units from Norfolk responded to the scene of the collision at 7:15 a.m. at the intersection of Highway 275 and 549 Avenue. That’s about four miles west of Norfolk.
Nebraska State Patrol Trooper Justin Koch said the bus was northbound on 549 Avenue and proceeded north across the highway, colliding with the westbound semi-trailer truck.
He said neither driver saw the other vehicle because of the the dense fog. Speed was not a factor, Koch said.
The school bus ended up almost entirely in the ditch on the northwest corner of the intersection with just its front wheels on the roadside. One side of the bus appeared to have been crushed in as a result of the collision.
The truck involved had its front end severely damaged. It was hauling vegetable oil and is operated by Weinrich Truck Line of Hinton, Iowa.
The driver of the school bus, Larry Prauner, 73, Battle Creek, and the driver of the semi, Stanley Jauer, 63, Hinton, Iowa, were not injured. Both drivers were wearing seat belts.
Bellar said the Battle Creek school district contracts with Mid-States to transport its students. The district has had a contract with Mid-States for at least 12 years, he said.
“It is something we never want to happen,” Bellar said, “but accidents do happen. We’re just praying for our kids to make sure they’re safe. They're the number one commodity in our school.”
The collision remains under investigation by the state patrol and Madison County sheriff’s office. The crash closed a portion of Highway 275 for several hours Monday morning.
Bellar said school went on as normal Monday morning. Once students were being released from the hospital, they were released to their parents who came to the hospital to pick them up, he said.
“They were shaken up,” Bellar said. “Anything from bangs on the heads to cuts and some bumps and bruises. They were (just) shaken up for the most part. We just want to make sure they were checked out first.”
Bellar said the school district appreciates the responses from all area emergency responders, including the Norfolk Fire Division, Battle Creek and Norfolk rescue squads and all the law enforcement officers.