ST. PAUL, Minn. - Search crews are trickling in to Lilydale Park in St. Paul Thursday morning, preparing to resume the recovery effort for a 4th grader missing after a field trip disaster.
The missing boy's uncle, Mohamed Bah, identifies him as 10-year-old Mohamed Fofana, a fourth grader at Peter Hobart Elementary School in St. Louis Park.
One child died and two were injured Wednesday afternoon when a rain-soaked path near a bluff gave way during the fossil hunting field trip, sending the victims plunging to a collapse zone 30 feet down. A fourth child, identified as Mohamed Fofana, remains unaccounted for and is presumed dead. Crews searched well into the night to find the student until conditions became so dangerous that efforts were called off until daylight.
Mohamed Bah tearfully described his nephew as "a very nice boy, friendly. Everybody says nice things about him." He says that the family has not given up on the possibility that Mohamed Fofana survived the cave in. "We hope he will come out of that place alive," Bah said. He added that they are ready to accept the worst. "As Muslims we believe that everything happens because that's the way God wants it to be. Whatever the outcome is we will accept it."
An extended family member told KARE 11 that if the community wants to help "They can keep praying. That's all we can do is keep praying."
St. Paul Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard met with reporters at 9:30 a.m. and offered several updates. He says that one child injured in the gravel slide has been released from the hospital, and a second remains in serious condition at Regions Hospital.
Zaccard also said that authorities are meeting with geologists to talk about the conditions they will be working in, and the risks recovery teams will face. Operations will be directed by Task Force One, a team comprised of first responders from several metro fire departments that is specially trained in rescue and recoveries from unstable or dangerous situations.
KARE 11's Jeremiah Jacobsen talked to the missing child's uncle on scene just after 8 a.m. He reports that the student's family is now on scene and was allowed inside the perimeter that has been set up by police to secure the search and rescue area.
Highway 13 remains closed between County Road 45 and Cherokee Park Boulevard, and several local streets will also remain impassable until the recovery effort winds up.
Public safety and recovery crews are meeting to discuss strategies that will aid them in recovering the student while allowing them to remain safe. As the situation unfolded Wednesday afternoon rescuers began digging with their hands, moved to shovels, and then fire crews used water hoses to blast away mud, gravel, sand and sediment.
The students were among two classrooms from Peter Hobart Elementary in St. Louis Park who were on a field trip to find fossils. Parents were seen sprinting into the school Wednesday afternoon, in a panic to see if their children were among those killed or injured.
District officials in St. Louis Park decided that school will go on at Peter Hobart Elementary Thursday, but counselors will be available for children who are struggling.
Dr. Debra Bowers, Superintendent of St. Louis Park Public Schools issued the following statement on the district's website.
"This is an incredibly sad time for our schools and our entire school community. Our hearts go out to the families, friends and everyone touched by today's accident. The St. Louis Park Schools are providing support and resources to students, staff and families, and we will continue to do so as long as needed. We, like everyone else, want to understand how this tragedy occurred, but today we ask for your continued thoughts and prayers for everyone involved."
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