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Van strikes two WDC kids just after school Friday

A van struck two Wadena-Deer Creek sixth-grade boys as they attempted to cross Colfax Avenue SW just after school Friday.

The boys suffered non-life threatening injuries and were brought to Tri-County Health Care, where they were treated and released later that day.

"This could have been a lot worse," said Jeff Randall, the father of one of the students. "We could have been burying two children."

His son suffered a chipped front tooth, a sore shoulder and some road rash, while the van ran over the other boy's ankle but didn't break it, Randall said.

Bobbie Bullard, a WDC paraprofessional, said she saw the boys walk through the icy ditch in front of the school then attempt to cross the busy thoroughfare without using a crosswalk at about 3:10 p.m. One appeared to slip on to the road, Bullard said, and the other tried to help him. When the boys attempted to dart across the road, a westbound van struck them.

"It just happened so quick," Bullard said.

The driver of the van won't face any charges, Wadena Police Chief Naomi Plautz said. "We do not believe he was at fault according to witnesses and the victims' statements ... In our opinion it was a mere accident. We're just glad everyone's OK."

The driver, who was allowed to leave after questioning, told police he was proceeding slowly through the school zone.

The speed limit on Colfax Avenue SW next to the school is 20 miles per hour when children are present.

Plautz asked motorists to "please drive carefully and cautiously and slowly."

She urged students to "look twice both ways and try to use the crosswalk when possible."

Both sets of instructions, she said, apply not only in school zones, but anywhere there are pedestrians.

WDC middle/high school principal Tyler Church said he's going to emphasize traffic safety at upcoming class meetings.

Typically, he said, there is a police officer at the crosswalk in front of the school. On Friday after school, the cop was responding to another call.

"Not that it would have prevented it, but typically when our kids see that officer, they think 'I better use the crosswalk,'" Church said.

Randall said more visible signs - and increased traffic enforcement - is needed to protect children who cross the busy state highway.

"I hope the city realizes that something has to be done or this is going to happen again and it's going to be worse," he said. "Something's gotta be done or someone's going to end up getting killed."