In train crash, story of heroism awaits confirmation

The tragedy in Larimore, N.D., this week, in which a BNSF train collided with a school bus, has certainly put public safety officials in the state in a tough spot: questioning the account of heroism by the parents of a girl on the bus who was killed.

Yesterday, the parents of Cassidy Sandstrom, 17, sent e-mails to their friends (republished on Facebook) that said their daughter rushed to the front of the bus when driver Max Danner, 62, slumped over at the wheel, the bus stopped on the tracks.

The Grand Forks Herald obtained the message:

Seventeen-year-old Cassidy Sandstrom, a senior at Larimore High School, was seated at the back of the bus when she “realized what was happening” and rushed to the front of the bus, ushering the other students toward the emergency door at the back of the bus, the email says.

In the email, the Sandstroms say their daughter unbuckled Danner’s seat belt and tried to hoist him out of his seat and back the bus off of the tracks.

“She just couldn’t save everyone, as the train came thru the front door,” they wrote.

“Knowing of her selflessness brings us some solace; it makes it all make more sense knowing that if she had not been there, there would have been so many more children’s lives lost,” her sister told WDAY.

The Highway Patrol’s problem? It doesn’t think the driver had a health problem, an assertion which appears to doubt the story.

“Our thoughts right now are he failed to provide a safe stopping distance,” Lt. Troy Hischer, of the Highway Patrol, told the Herald.

The data from the bus has yet to be analyzed to show whether the bus was moving at the time. The autopsy on the bus driver, who also died in the crash, has not been concluded.

That’s sparked a bit of a debate over what is otherwise a story of heroism.


Related: Larimore Strong: Train-school bus crash aftermath shows many people try to help (Grand Forks Herald).

Update: The Highway Patrol is now backing away from its statement.