Victim identified in fatal bus crash in St. Paul

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Photo Courtesy: St. Paul Police Dept.

St. Paul police are investigating a fatal crash Friday evening between a Metro Transit bus and a vehicle at the intersection of Dale Street and Charles Avenue.

“It's horrific. It's surreal,” said Steve Linders, St. Paul public information officer. “I talked to investigators who said they've been working 20-30 years on patrol and they've never seen anything like this before.”

One bus passenger, a 48-year-old Kenneth J. Foster, has died.

The driver of the vehicle, 26-year-old Tyler Bjelland of Minneapolis, is in critical condition at Regions Hospital. Bjelland has apparent leg injuries, preliminary signs of impairment and was arrested on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide.

Another passenger, a 19-year-old man, on the bus is also in critical condition.

Records show that Bjelland had a suspended license and a prior DWI conviction. Police believe he was fleeing the scene of another accident when he plowed into the bus. They also believe he may have been under the influence at the time. 

Investigators say that around 7:30 p.m., the car was eastbound on Charles going 70 miles per hour when it ran a stop sign, hit the median, went airborne and went completely through the bus, which was northbound on Dale. The bus ended up farther north on Dale, and the car possibly struck a tree before stopping.

Richi Thomas is among the neighbors still shaken by the collision. Thomas said that he believes trees kept either the bus or car from crashing into his home at the intersection of Charles Avenue and Dale Street.

When he heard the crash, Thomas sprang into action.

"The car was on fire and I tried to get the hose out and tried to stop the fire," he said.

St. Paul fire medics had to extricate the driver.

The driver of the bus has worked with Metro Transit since 1978. There were about six to eight passengers were on the bus.

The case is still under investigation.