‘Horrific,’ ‘surreal’ crash kills one, injures others

Published 8:00 am Monday, July 24, 2017

By Tim Nelson

MPR News/90.1 FM

St. Paul police have identified the driver in Friday night’s fatal crash with a Metro Transit bus as Tyler Randall Bjelland, 26, of Minneapolis. He has not been charged in the crash.

Email newsletter signup

Bjelland remains hospitalized. Police said he had apparent leg injuries, preliminary signs of impairment, and was arrested on suspicion of criminal vehicular homicide.

Authorities called the crash “horrific” and “surreal” on Friday night after a speeding car in St. Paul punched through a bus, throwing one of the passengers into the street and killing him instantly.

Police said the driver was eastbound on Charles Avenue, a few blocks north of University in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood, when he got into a minor collision near Victoria Street.

Witnesses said no one appeared injured there. The driver then fled east on Charles Avenue, a busy residential street that’s also a bikeway.

Mercedes Berry lives a block away and was walking to a store nearby when she saw the car come speeding by. “This car was like going 150 miles and it kept going, I don’t know how many miles, but it came zooming fast,” she said.

The junction of Charles Avenue and Dale Street is blocked by a curb-height median on Dale, and St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders said the car sped right over it about 7:30 p.m.

“His vehicle went airborne, and unfortunately it went through a Metro Transit bus,” Linders said.

Linders said other witnesses at the scene estimated the white sedan sped by as fast as 70 miles an hour before hitting the driver’s side of the bus, several feet above ground level and just behind the front wheels.

The Route 65 bus crashed into a yard north of the intersection, with a massive hole torn through both sides of the passenger area, and twisted seats visible in the wreckage.

Authorities said a 48-year-old man was thrown from the bus and died at the scene. Another 19-year-old bus passenger was critically hurt and suffered what are believed to be life-threatening injuries. As many as a half dozen other passengers were also on the bus, but were not seriously hurt.

The crash drew a large crowd and shut down Dale Street, one of the city’s busiest north-south thoroughfares, for hours. Investigators worked on reconstructing the crash late into the night.

Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said the agency’s staff were shocked when they arrived. He said even experienced law enforcement and transit workers have never seen anything like it.

Padilla said the agency’s thoughts are with the family and friends of the passengers hurt and killed in the incident.