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Tour Bus Crashes off Minnesota Interstate

minn-tour-bus-crash-373

JEFF BAENEN

Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Minn. A tour bus returning from a casino ran off a southern Minnesota interstate and rolled over in a ditch Wednesday, killing two people and injuring 21, authorities said.

The bus, operated by Strain Bus Line Motorcoach Tours in Rochester, was eastbound on Interstate 90 just west of Austin about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday when it crossed into the westbound lanes and flipped over, Department of Public Safety spokesman Andy Skoogman said.

"We can confirm that two people on board the bus died at the scene," Skoogman said.

The bus was carrying 23 people including the driver, Skoogman said. He said 14 were taken to Austin Medical Center and six to a hospital in nearby Albert Lea. The driver was airlifted to St. Marys Hospital in Rochester.

Firefighters pulled off the windshield because the 47-passenger bus had settled on its right side, blocking the door.

Skoogman had no information on conditions of the injured or details about those killed.

Strain Bus Line operates a bus every Wednesday from Rochester to Diamond Jo Casino in Northwood, Iowa, charging $15 a seat, according to its Web site. An employee who answered the phone at Strain would not give her name, but said the owner was on his way to the crash scene.

Northwood is about 30 miles southwest of Austin. The State Patrol said the road was clear and dry at the time of the accident, which investigators are reconstructing to try to determine what happened.

Bold Lines Inc., which does business under the name Strain Tours, is a small operator with six drivers and four buses and has had no accidents in the past two years, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration Web site.

In 2002, Bold Lines paid $20,000 to settle an enforcement case over drug testing for drivers, according to the federal safety agency. It also paid $300 to settle a case over driver duty times and recordkeeping.

The agency has advised roadside inspectors to inspect the company's vehicles because of safety concerns, according to the Web site. Its "Inspection Selection System" rated Strain at a 76, with any score between 75 and 100 meaning an inspection is warranted.

Associated Press writers Josh Freed, Amy Forliti and Doug Glass contributed from Minneapolis.

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