Thursday 23 May 2013

One child dead and another missing following Minnesota landslide.

One child is known to have died and another is missing following a landslide at Lilydale Regional Park  in St. Paul, Minnesota, at about 1.15 pm local time (6.15 pm GMT) on Wednesday 22 May 2013. The children, described as fourth graders (i.e. 9-11 years old) from  Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park, Minneapolis, were on a school trip to the park, where they were hunting for fossils, when part of the hillside collapsed, sweeping them into a water-filled pit. Two fire-fighters were injured by a second landslide during rescue attempts, which freed three children, though one child later died in hospital. Attempts to find the missing child were forced to stop overnight due to safety concerns as the hole filled with water which needed to be diverted, but have now restarted, though they are now being described as a 'recovery' effort rather than a rescue.

A rescue worker tends to an injured student in Lilydale Park.

The children were apparently part of a larger group following a path through an area known as the Brickyards of St. Paul, which is described as a site formerly used by the Twin City Brick Company (i.e. brick clay was extracted here), which is a popular spot for fossil hunting, with permits to collect being sold by the St Paul Parks and Recreation Department

The ground has variously been described as 'mud and gravel' or 'sandstone' in the local press, suggesting these are probably poorly consolidated sediments, and the area had received about six days more-or-less continuous rain prior to the incident. Cliffs and steep inclines made up of loose sediments can be extremely dangerous after rainfall, and the presence of fossils can be regarded as a danger sign under these circumstances; if people keep removing fossils and they are still available then they must be being washed out from somewhere, implying active erosion is occurring. Sadly no advice on this hazards seems to have been available to the school or local people in the area prior to this incident.

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