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2 dead, 21 injured in Minnesota bus crash

Two people were killed and 21 injured when a tour bus ran off a southern Minnesota interstate and rolled over in a ditch, a state official says.
Rescuers work at the scene of a bus accident Wednesday afternoon on Interstate 90 west of Austin, Minn. Kevin Hanson / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A tour bus returning from an Iowa casino ran off a southern Minnesota interstate and rolled over in a ditch Wednesday, killing two people and injuring 21, authorities said.

The bus, operated by Strain Bus Line Motorcoach Tours in Rochester, was eastbound on Interstate 90 just west of Austin about 3:20 p.m. when it crossed into the westbound lanes and flipped over, Department of Public Safety spokesman Andy Skoogman said.

Passenger Ardell Swenson, 71, of Austin, said she was just putting her head back to rest when the crash happened.

"When I got myself organized there was all kinds of red and white and blue lights flashing," she said. "There was glass all over."

The bus was carrying 23 people, including the driver, Skoogman said. He said 14 were taken to Austin Medical Center and six to a hospital in nearby Albert Lea. The driver was airlifted to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester. Skoogman had no information on conditions of those injured or details about those killed.

Firefighters pulled off the bus's windshield because the 47-passenger coach had settled on its right side, blocking the door. Video footage from the scene showed several older people sitting on the grass, many bleeding from what appeared to be minor wounds but talking to medical personnel.

Swenson was treated at the Austin hospital for what she called minor injuries.

"I'm just going to be really sore," she said.

Strain Bus Line operates a bus every Wednesday from Rochester to Diamond Jo Casino in Northwood, Iowa, charging $15 a seat, according to its Web site. An employee who answered the phone at Strain would not give her name, but said the owner was on his way to the crash scene.

Northwood is about 30 miles southwest of Austin. The State Patrol said the road was clear and dry at the time of the accident. The cause of the crash remained under investigation, Skoogman said.

Bold Lines Inc., which does business under the name Strain Tours, is a small operator with six drivers and four buses and has had no accidents in the past two years, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Web site.

In 2002, Bold Lines paid $20,000 to settle an enforcement case over drug testing for drivers, according to the federal safety agency. It also paid $300 to settle a case over driver duty times and recordkeeping.

The agency has advised roadside inspectors to inspect the company's vehicles because of safety concerns, according to the Web site. Its "Inspection Selection System" rated Strain at a 76, with any score between 75 and 100 meaning an inspection is warranted.