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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

School Bus Crash

A Harlem School District bus carrying 40 patrons returning to the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation from a church camp at Hungry Horse flipped on its side Friday afternoon. Approximately 38 school age students and two adults were injured.

U.S. Highway 2, at mile marker 296 about 16 miles east of Shelby, was closed for approximately four hours to clean up the wreckage.

At approximately 2:45 p.m., the bus, driven by Felicianao Holguin, 39, negotiated a gradual left curve on the highway. As the bus was coming out of the curve, it went off the south side of the highway. Holguin steered the bus back onto the highway, which caused the bus to venture into the oncoming traffic lane. Holguin counter steered the bus back into the right lane, which caused the bus to spin in a clockwise rotation. Once the bus was sideways on the highway, it tipped over onto the driver’s side and skidded on the highway until it came to rest. The bus blocked both lanes of traffic on U.S. Highway 2. Holguin said a heavy gust of wind caused the bus to initially be pushed over to the side.

A “code red” blanket was declared, which notified responders of a potential mass casualty event. Along with Montana Highway Patrol, emergency units from four counties (Toole, Pondera, Glacier and Liberty), United States Border Patrol, Customs and Border Protection, Motor Carrier Services, Montana Department of Transportation and Toole County Health Department all came together to assist. Mercy Flight responded with a helicopter and a fixed wing aircraft.

Injured patrons were transported to Marias Medical Center in Shelby, Pondera County Medical Center in Conrad, Northern Rockies Medical Center in Cut Bank, Liberty County Medical Center in Chester and Benefis Hospital in Great Falls. Most of the people injured in the crash were treated and released for minor injuries, but three remained hospitalized at Benefis in Great Falls.

The bus passengers had just spent the week at Glacier Bible Camp at an annual Indian Youth Camp. Most ranged from grade school age to high school age. Camp counselor Malachy Hornung, reporting from Benefis, said the three injured passengers who remain hospitalized are “doing very well.”

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