Quick-Thinking Motorist Saves Minn. Bus Driver

July 25--A Metro Mobility bus driver who was injured and trapped in her vehicle after a crash on Interstate 35W was rescued by a quick-thinking motorist who came upon the fiery accident scene.

The Metro Mobility bus crashed into a semitrailer truck that had crossed over the median on 35W in Roseville during Friday morning's commute, resulting in a fire and subsequent collisions involving a truck and a van.

Two people were injured, including the Metro Mobility driver who was pulled from her vehicle after a passerby hooked his pickup truck to the bus and yanked it away from the semi truck, which had ignited after the collision.

Lt. Eric Roeske of the State Patrol said the man, Caley Emerson of Grand Rapids, Minn., likely saved the life of the Metro Mobility driver.

"We're very thankful that Mr. Emerson was there," Roeske said.

Roseville Fire Chief Tim O'Neill said it took about 15 minutes to extricate the Metro Mobility driver from the bus. She had been pinned in her seat.

The identities of the Metro Mobility driver and the other injured person, who drove the semi, were not immediately released. They were taken to hospitals for treatment.

No passengers were on board the Metro Mobility bus, which was operated by First Transit, one of the contractors the Met Council uses to provide door-to-door service for the disabled.

Minnesota Department of Transportation officials say the northbound lanes of 35W would remain closed until about 1:30 p.m. as authorities investigate and clean up the mess at the scene.

According to Roeske, the semi truck was southbound on 35W near Hwy. 280 shortly before 6:30 a.m. when the driver lost control and the truck jumped the guardrails and wound up blocking the northbound lanes.

The semi collided with the northbound Metro Mobility bus, setting off the chain reaction of collisions.

The identities of the Metro Mobility driver and the other injured person, who drove the semi, were not immediately released. They were taken to hospitals for treatment.

The Metro Mobility driver was unable to get out of the bus herself because of her injuries and damage to the vehicle. That's when Emerson apparently took action, pulling the bus away from the semi to allow rescue workers to free the driver.

Roeske said that if the bus had not been moved, it likely would have caught fire from the semi. He said he spoke with Emerson and invited him to a morning news briefing about the accident. Emerson declined, saying that he didn't want any recognition and had only done what anyone else would have done under the circumstances.

Roeske said it was unclear what had caused the semi truck driver to lose control of his vehicle.

The crash created a major mess for commuters as the State Patrol also closed southbound lanes of I-35W at Hwy. 36. Southbound traffic was diverted onto Hwy. 280 for nearly 90 minutes, until the southbound lanes were reopened at 7:50 a.m.

Northbound traffic was being pushed off onto Industrial Blvd. As of noon, the northbound lanes were still closed.

The 35W crash one of three incidents involving semitrailer trucks Friday morning. In Shoreview, a truck that got hung up on a guardrail had the right lane blocked on southbound 35W at County Road 10. That created gridlock just before 6 a.m. from the scene back to Lexington Avenue.

In Monticello, the State Patrol said a semi headed westbound overturned just past the Hwy. 25 exit. That took out the right lane and at noon had traffic backed up more about 8 miles.

Kevin Duchschere -- 651-925-5035

Tim Harlow -- 612-673-7768

Copyright 2014 - Star Tribune (Minneapolis)

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