- Associated Press - Friday, May 1, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The Highway Patrol lieutenant who led the investigation into a deadly collision between a school bus and a freight train near Larimore has been suspended without pay for one day and fined $20 for driving the wrong way on a major highway the night of the crash.

Lt. Troy Hischer is to serve his suspension on Monday. It will cost him $322 in pay. He declined comment to The Associated Press on Friday.

A patrol report of the incident says Hischer drove the wrong way on U.S. Highway 2 for 4.5 miles at speeds of up to 62 mph when he left the Jan. 5 crash scene to return to Grand Forks. A log of 911 calls shows Hischer told a dispatcher he was on his phone at the time.

Two motorists called authorities about the wrong-way driver on the highway, where the speed limit is 70 mph.

The report written by Capt. Aaron Hummel, commander of the patrol’s administrative services division, indicates that Hischer might have thought he was traveling on a county road rather than on a major highway. Hummel said the crash Hischer had responded to “was a very complex and emotional investigation.”

Hummel recommended disciplinary action because Hischer failed to notify his supervisor of what he had done.

Hischer was put on administrative leave with pay on March 31, and he was allowed to return to duty Tuesday. Capt. Kyle Ternes suspended him Thursday.

“Any incidents of similar nature on your behalf may result in an increased level of progressive discipline,” Ternes said in his letter to Hischer.

Hischer did not contest the punishment, according to Lt. Tom Iverson, a patrol spokesman.

The crash at a gravel road crossing outside Larimore killed 62-year-old bus driver Max Danner and 17-year-old student Cassidy Sandstrom, and injured 12 other students who have since recovered. Hischer’s investigation into the cause pointed to driver error on the part of Danner.

The state Transportation Department, Grand Forks County and BNSF Railway are funding safety upgrades at the train crossing.

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

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