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Published May 23, 2013, 11:55 AM

Body of 2nd child found in deadly Minnesota landslide

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Authorities on Thursday recovered the body of a second child killed when a rockslide hit a group of fourth-graders in a St. Paul park a day earlier, and announced that the popular fossil-hunting area would be closed indefinitely.

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Authorities on Thursday recovered the body of a second child killed when a rockslide hit a group of fourth-graders in a St. Paul park a day earlier, and announced that the popular fossil-hunting area would be closed indefinitely.

The boy had been missing since rain-saturated soil gave way Wednesday afternoon during the field trip to Lilydale Regional Park by students from Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park. Police, firefighters and civilians dug frantically with shovels and their hands to get to the children.

The child was found late Thursday morning after the search was suspended overnight due to unsafe conditions.

Mayor Chris Coleman said the area was off-limits indefinitely and that no permits for fossil hunting would be issued. The city typically issues about 400 permits a year to for the area.

"It's a wonderful part of our city, a wonderful part of the Mississippi River valley and an exciting place to be," Coleman said. "But at the same time, it's a wild area."

Assistant Fire Chief Jim Smith said he arrived Wednesday to find 20 to 30 people attempting to rescue the children. He described a horseshoe-shaped pit 30 to 40 feet deep, and "a very dangerous situation facing all rescuers" with lots of loose soil and water running off.

Smith said the boys were hit by 4 to 5 feet of soil and rock.

Two boys were pulled from the soil and sand, one buried to the waist and the other completely buried. One of those children was pronounced dead at Regions Hospital; the other was in serious condition Thursday. A third child was treated for minor injuries, and a fourth was missing.

Smith said with the time it took to move many tons of material, it soon became clear that the search for the fourth child was a recovery effort.

Family members identified that boy as Mohamed Fofana, 10. Authorities identified the boy who died at the hospital as Haysem Sani, 9.

Mohamed's father, Lancine Fofana, told the St. Paul Pioneer Press his son had been looking forward to the field trip.

"He came to me and said, 'You know we have a field trip tomorrow? I'm so happy,'" the father said.

The school made counselors available to students, parents and staff on Thursday. A makeshift memorial was taking shape outside, with orange and black balloons tied to a fence, two dozen bouquets and more than a dozen stuffed animals. One pink heart-shaped card said "R.I.P." and bore the signatures of several children.

In a brief news conference outside the school, district Superintendent Debra Bowers called it "an incredibly sad day for our schools and our entire school community."

Officials declined to answer questions on whether they had checked safety conditions before allowing the field trip.

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 those signing on behalf of a group certify that they have made those conditions known to all participants on such trips, or their parents or guardians in the case of minors.

"You think about the joy those children were experiencing. The quickness in which that tragedy struck, it is really unspeakable in its nature," Coleman said.

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