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Prayer service today for Pelican Rapids student killed in bus crash

The Pelican Rapids School District postponed a Sunday community prayer service for the victims of a Saturday morning band trip bus crash, which killed one student and injured dozens. The service was rescheduled for 5 p.m. today because of winter weather conditions.

"We want our community and students to be safe," reads an update on the high school's Web site.

The bus, one of two carrying students and chaperones home from a high school band trip in Chicago, veered off the dry road and tipped over at 5:45 a.m. on Interstate 94 in Albertville, Minn. Jessica Weishair, 16, of Barnesville, died at the scene of the accident.

On Sunday afternoon, one female student remained in critical condition at North Memorial Hospital in Robbinsdale. Two other girls were listed in fair condition there.

All but two of 28 injured bus passengers treated at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids and Buffalo Hospital were released, said Allina Hospital & Clinics spokeswoman Gloria O'Connell. Haley Hoyer, 16, and her mom, chaperone Cynthia Hoyer, remained at Mercy. Haley, who was initially considered in critical condition, was recovering after surgery to a fractured ankle. Her mom suffered a punctured lung and broken ribs.

"They're both in good condition," O'Connell said. "They're in the same room. They wanted to be close to each other, and we thought that was OK although we don't usually mix pediatric and adult patients."

With Sunday high school events canceled, grief over the tragedy poured online. Friends of Jessica Weishair, a flute player who took Spanish and loved scary movies, created a Facebook page titled "Dear Jessica." By Sunday afternoon, it featured some 300 members and 33 posts of memories and prayers - by both close friends and fellow students who regretted never getting to know her better. Post after post recalled Jessica's signature dimpled smile and her warm, accepting personality.

The high school Web site carried an emotional statement by Marlys Ebersviller, Jessica's high school counselor and Sunday school teacher at Faith Lutheran Church. Ebersviller described her as a quiet, attentive "A" student who loved to spend time with her grandparents and her niece.

"Kim, her father, told me that if you wanted to buy a daughter like Jessica, you just wouldn't be able to," the statement reads. "You could never afford her - that's how good she was."

The "Everyone Praying for Pelican Rapids Students in the Bus Accident" Facebook page featured updates on injured students and words of support by, among others, a college student from Cottonwood, Minn., where a February school bus crash killed four students.

Pelican Rapids residents also expressed their dismay at the tragedy and sympathy for Jessica's family on the popular blog of Jim Christianson, a school bus contractor for the Pelican Rapids school district. (The charter bus that crashed Saturday was owned by Richards Transportation of Moorhead. The driver, Loren Ernst, 69, was treated and released from Monticello-Big Lake Hospital.)

Jessica's family hasn't made plans for a memorial service.

The Minnesota State Patrol is investigating the crash.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529