Child Remains Missing After Deadly Lilydale Park Gravel Slide

Posted at: 05/22/2013 1:48 PM
Updated at: 05/22/2013 11:29 PM
By: Leslie Dyste

One child is dead, one is hospitalized and another remains missing after a gravel slide at Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul.

The search for the child was called off for the night around 10:30 p.m. Wednesday due to dangerous conditions, according to the St. Paul Fire Department.

The incident happened at about 1:16 p.m. Wednesday when the group of children became trapped because of the "gravel slide" at the park, Zaccard said.

The children are fourth-graders from Peter Hobart Elementary School in the St. Louis Park Public Schools district, said Sara Thompson, district spokeswoman, in a statement. They were on a field trip in the area looking for fossils.

Earlier in the day, rescuers used their hands and shovels to dig for four children lost in the gravel slide.

While digging out one of the children, rescuers uncovered the hand of another child, who later died at Regions Hospital in St. Paul, Zaccard said.

Two other children were taken to Regions Hospital as well. One of the children was treated and released with minor injuries and the other child remains in serious condition.

The children fell in a hole and the earth came on top of them because the rain made the ground soft, Zaccard said. It's unclear how far down the children fell.

It took more than an hour to rescue the children. Rescuers were waist-deep in the hole trying to retrieve the children. One victim was removed by helicopter.

Rescue efforts to recover a fourth child have been difficult because water is flowing into the hole, Zaccard said, making it extremely dangerous for rescuers.

"We still need to find that child," he said.

Other agencies across the metro are helping with the rescue efforts at the scene, which are about a quarter mile away from the roadway, Zaccard said.

Minneapolis Fire Department has sent two rigs and support staff to the park, said firefighter Todd Steinhilber. All members of the rescue squad are from Minnesota Task Force One, which includes rescuers from Edina and Bloomington. The St. Paul Fire Department used two dogs in the search.

Two firefighters were injured at Lilydale Park. A firefighter was injured when a rock hit him in the head, Zaccard said. Another firefighter suffered a back injury. Both firefighters are recovering at home.

Parents were reunited with their children at 4:07 p.m. Wednesday at the elementary, according to KSTP reporter Todd Wilson. Administrators lined the children's path into school. The kids walked inside with their coats over their heads.

Parents involved declined to talk about the incident.

Meanwhile, community members have created a makeshift memorial at the elementary school in mourning. They are dropping off notes, balloons and teddy bears.

As of 9 p.m. some school officials remained inside the building. At this point, additional details from the school have not been released. 

Lilydale Regional Park

Zaccard said several days of rain had softened the ground at the park, but it and nearby Cherokee Park were open and available to the public Wednesday.

Brad Meyer, the city's parks and recreation spokesman, said it's rare to close a park "unless there is a major hazardous condition." "We didn't have any indication that we should close the park or that it was unsafe," Meyer said.

The park is a very popular place for school field trips. Thousands of kids go there to look for fossils each year.

According to the park's website, Lilydale Regional Park has two areas, The Brickyards of St. Paul and Harriet Island. The brickyards is the location of the former Twin City Brick Company.

The area now has a level trail that leads from the parking lot to the brick kiln. Visitors can hike a graveled trail from the kiln up the steep hill to the quarries.

Authorities have closed Highway 13 in Mendota Heights because of the rescue efforts.

The Associated Press Contributed to this Report.