2 Drivers, 2 Students Mourned After Nebraska School Bus Crash

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Hundreds turned out yesterday for a memorial service held in honor of four victims who died in a fiery collision between a school bus and tractor-trailer Wednesday near Blue Hill, Neb.

A tractor-trailer hauling hay bales collided with the school bus at about 4:45 p.m. local time on Wednesday, according to the Webster County Sheriff’s Department. Both vehicles erupted into flames after the crash, killing both drivers and two students.

On Thursday, the Nebraska State Patrol identified the four people killed as truck driver Travis Witte, 21, of Blue Hill; Blue Hill Community School District bus driver Marla Wentworth, 59, of Red Cloud; and students Dustin Tesdahl, 18, and Caroline Thallman, 10, both of Blue Hill.

During the emotional service, the pastor expressed the gratitude of Thallman’s parents, who were not in attendance, as they remained at the hospital with their 8-year-old daughter, Allie. She was also a school bus passenger and suffered injuries, but she is expected to make a full recovery. Four other students were also injured.

A 7-year old girl was flown to Children’s Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, where she was listed in serious condition as of Thursday morning. Three children were taken to another local hospital, including Allie Thallman, a 10-year-old boy who remained in stable condition and 7-year-old boy who was treated and released. A 6-year-old girl was treated and released from another hospital.

Prior to the collision, the school bus was traveling eastbound on county road “R,” and the semi was northbound on 1800 Road. Both vehicles were engulfed in flames and came to rest in a field in the northeast corner of the gravel intersection.

Webster County Attorney Sara Bockstadter told NBC station WOWT that the “first concern” is for the families of those affected by Wednesday’s crash.

Bockstadter did not return calls from STN at this report.

The Nebraska State Patrol is assisting the Webster County Sheriff’s Department and the Webster County Attorney with the accident investigation. Investigators have not divulged who was at fault. There are no stop and/or yield signs in the intersection where the crash occurred.