- Associated Press - Thursday, January 8, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - Authorities investigating a crash involving a school bus and a freight train in northeastern North Dakota are interviewing students who were on the bus, inspecting the bus mechanics, viewing videotape from a camera on the train and awaiting results of an autopsy on the bus driver.

The crash on Monday afternoon at a crossing outside Larimore killed driver Max Danner, 62, and 17-year-old student Cassidy Sandstrom, and injured 12 other students.

The Highway Patrol has said driver error likely caused the crash. Highway Patrol Lt. Tom Iverson said Thursday that it was too early in the investigation to make any assumptions about what happened, including whether Danner might have suffered a medical problem. Danner’s twin brother, Mel, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Max Danner had previous heart trouble that required a bypass and a pacemaker but otherwise was in good health.

Results from Danner’s autopsy and a mechanical inspection of the bus were not available Thursday, officials were just beginning to review the train’s videotape and authorities still had witnesses to interview.

“Once we are able to get a lot of those statements and review the video, we’ll be releasing more information,” Iverson said.

The state Transportation Department on Wednesday sent a team to help Grand Forks County officials evaluate the crossing, which is on a gravel road. The state also will help pay for any safety upgrades deemed necessary, Transportation Director Grant Levi said.

The intersection is marked with a crossbuck, a white “X” marked with the words “railroad crossing.” The post carrying the crossbuck also has a stop sign.

Any safety enhancements would require approval from BNSF Railway.

Only one of 10 injured students taken to Altru Hospital in Grand Forks after the crash remained there Thursday, spokeswoman Lindsey Reznicek said.

Six of the patients were discharged, including two on Wednesday. Three others were transferred earlier, but officials have not said where.

Superintendent Roger Abbe said the school district brought in 10 extra counselors to help students and staff cope with the tragedy. The school also set up large pieces of paper where students could write messages of condolence.

“I think we’ve had a pretty good couple of days trying to get the healing process going,” Abbe said. “We think we’re on the right track to getting things back to normal.”

The school was planning to resume sporting events Thursday night, weather permitting.

Danner’s funeral is scheduled for Monday afternoon at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Honeyford, according to Amundson Funeral Home. The funeral will be followed by a reception at the American Legion Hall in Forest River. Danner is survived by his wife and four sons.

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Follow Blake Nicholson on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NicholsonBlake


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