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Drivers involved in Bemidji school bus crash identified

Emergency personnel were on the scene Wednesday morning, May 3, after reports of a school bus crash north of Bemidji, Minn. (Submitted photo)

BEMIDJI, Minn. —The driver who law enforcement say ran a stop sign and hit a school bus Wednesday morning—injuring multiple elementary school-aged children—has been identified as well as the bus driver..

Thomas Lee Nielson, 29, of Chattanooga, Tenn., was driving a passenger car east on South Movil Lake Road when he drove through the stop sign and hit the bus on the right side, according to a news release issued Thursday from the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office. The bus, which had been traveling south on Irvine Avenue, lost control and swerved onto the soft shoulder before rolling on its side in the ditch.

One Bemidji Area Schools student was airlifted to Sanford Bemidji after his arm was pinned between a bus seat and a window. Five total students were "obviously injured" and taken to the hospital by ambulance; others sustained minor injuries, according to the release.

Nielson was seriously injured. The news release said he is in serious condition at Sanford Hospital, though he was not listed as a patient there as of 2 p.m. Thursday.

Beltrami County Sheriff Phil Hodapp said Wednesday that about 30 people were taken to Sanford, but that most were quickly released.

Authorities on Thursday also identified the driver of the school bus. The bus involved in the crash was Bemidji School District Bus No. 25, driven by Patrick Russell Stout, 47, of Bemidji. The students on board were largely from the school district's northern attendance areas, including Red Lake Nation. The bus had been headed to Northern Elementary.

Bemidji Area Schools and Sanford Bemidji Medical Center staff handled crisis care with assistance from the Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center and several area pastors.

Hodapp praised Stout shortly after the accident.

"The children were all cared for quickly by the school bus driver," Hodapp said Wednesday. "He did everything he could to react to what happened and try to avoid the collision, and then tried to minimize injuries."

Thursday's release reports that the Minnesota State Patrol is helping the Beltrami County Sheriff's Office with a reconstruction of the accident, and that it remains under investigation.

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