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Published September 18, 2012, 09:53 AM

UPDATE Students, teacher injured in Watford City school crash

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — Three students and a teacher suffered minor injuries when a semitrailer crashed into their rural school in northwestern North Dakota after colliding with a car. The driver of the car was killed, and school officials say student deaths were narrowly avoided.

WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — Three students and a teacher suffered minor injuries when a semitrailer crashed into their rural school in northwestern North Dakota after colliding with a car. The driver of the car was killed, and school officials say student deaths were narrowly avoided.

The mid-day incident on Monday sent students and teachers scurrying for safety and caused confusion, with an initial call to emergency responders saying there had been an explosion.

"We had no idea what hit us," teacher Janice Sanford told The Dickinson Press. "We thought it was a bomb."

There were 17 students and seven teachers in Johnson Corners Christian Academy at the time of the crash, Sanford said. The Highway Patrol told the newspaper that three students, a teacher and the semi driver, Jason Owen, 36, of Watford City, were treated at a hospital and released. The driver of the car, Althea Mandan, 65, of Dickinson, died from injuries in the collision with the truck, according to the Highway Patrol.

The patrol said in a statement that the car failed to yield to the semi at a McKenzie County intersection, 16 miles east of Watford City. After the collision, the semi went through a ditch and a chain-link fence, clipped a parked school bus and pickup truck and slammed into the school. The unattended pickup also was pushed into the school. The bus went about 60 feet inside.

Sanford said the semi went through an area of empty classrooms and demolished the boys' restroom, sending one boy who was in the bathroom running for his life. Witnesses said the semi also went through the office of the principal, who was out of town.

"This is a Christian school and I can't help but think that God was looking out for us today," Sanford said. "It just happened to be lunch time and everyone was in the commons area, otherwise this would have been much worse."

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