ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Authorities on Thursday recovered the body of a boy missing since a rockslide killed a classmate and left two others injured a day earlier at a St. Paul park.
St. Paul Assistant Fire Chief Jim Smith said crews found the body late in the morning after they came up with a plan to resume the search safely.
The boy had been missing since rain-saturated soil gave way Wednesday afternoon as fourth-graders on a field trip from Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park hunted for fossils in Lilydale Regional Park. Police, firefighters and civilians dug frantically with shovels and their hands to get to the children.
Three children were taken to Regions Hospital, where one was pronounced dead and one with minor injuries was treated and released. The third child remained in serious condition Thursday, St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard said.
Smith, the incident commander, said the hardest part was suspending the search for the missing child Wednesday night.
"We were up against insurmountable odds with the amount of rain (and) water," Smith said. He added that the area was "extremely unstable. We were extremely concerned about the safety of our rescuers, with soil, sand, rocks continually falling into the recovery site."
Conditions were "180 degrees different" on Thursday morning, he said. The sun was out, the water had drained and the ground was stable.
Officials did not immediately release the names of the students. Relatives of the missing boy gathered at the park as the search was underway Thursday.
"They are grateful to the rescuers (for) the time and effort the rescuers put in to find their child, but needless to say at this point in time it's a very, very sad situation, for not only the family but their friends that have shown up as well," Smith said.
The school made counselors available to students, parents and staff on Thursday, district spokeswoman Sara Thompson said.
Smith said counselors would meet with the responders as well.
"We have to make sure that they have an avenue to unload," he said.
Lilydale Regional Park is a popular destination for school field trips because of the numerous fossils embedded in the Mississippi River bluffs. Partly for safety reasons, the city requires permits for fossil-hunting and requires applicants to sign a waiver releasing the city from any liability for injuries or property damage.
The park department's permit website and the application form state that "some of the conditions and locations within the Lilydale Regional Park area are hazardous to persons or property" and that park users must assume liability for any injuries or claims that might arise "due to its unsafe conditions."
The permit form also says the person signing on behalf of a group certifies that they have made those conditions known to all participants on such trips, or their parents or guardians in the case of minors.