As news spread this weekend of a Harlem Public School district bus, carrying about 40 people from an Assemblies of God church camp in Hungry Horse, rolling over near Devon, the communities of Harlem and Fort Belknap were shocked.
“Forty kids from a church in a small community like this has a big impact, ” Harlem Mayor Bill Taylor said. “That makes you sit up straight and takes your breath away. ”
Harlem City Council member Sondra Ashton felt the same way, as she saw a woman running down the street, talking on a cellphone and weeping.
“There probably wasn’t anyone in the community that wasn’t touched in some way or another, ” Ashton said. “It was a sad time. ”
One of those affected was Linda Tangen, who had two granddaughters, 13- and 14-years old, on the bus.
“I was shocked, ” Tangen said. “I was wondering why a bus rolled over. I was wondering normal grandma stuff.”
She added she felt lucky that the worst injury between them was the 14-year-old’s broken collarbone.
Three days after the rollover, it seems most of the people on the bus suffered similar or milder injuries, with the exception of a few adults, including Harlem Assembly of God’s Lead Pastor Jeremy Kluck.
As of this morning, Kluck was still in Benefis Hospital in Great Falls, where he is in good condition.
The bus was carrying students from a church study camp in Hungry Horse to Harlem, when the accident occurred at 2:45 p. m. on Highway 2 near Devon, a little less than halfway between Shelby and Chester, Highway Patrol Sgt. Joel Knutsen said.
The Assemblies of God run a program for students from Montana Indian reservations each summer. Many of the Harlem-area students were from Fort Belknap.
The Toole County Sheriff's Department said the injured students were initially taken to several medical centers, including Marias Medical Center in Shelby, said center administrator Mark Cross.
Radio station KSEN-AM in Shelby reported clothing and luggage could be seen along one side of the bus, which blocked the highway.
The bus had just left Glacier Bible Camp, an Assemblies of God-owned site that hosts the annual Indian Youth Camp for children from Montana's Indian reservations.
Richard Stewart, the director of Indian Youth Camp, told the Great Falls Tribune the bus was transporting children from the Fort Belknap Reservation, and they were being supervised by the Harlem Assembly of God congregation.
"Our hearts are breaking," Stewart said. "We were just at camp with these kids.... We're just really going to the Lord and saying, 'God, help us.'"
Knutsen said the bus driver apparently overcorrected twice, causing it to flip over, after a wind gust pushed the bus to the edge of the highway.
About 12 people were being treated for various injuries at Marias Medical Center.
The students ranged in age from grade-school to high-school age, Cross said. Several adults also were being treated.
(Associated Press material was used in this story.)