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Pequot Lakes man sentenced in relation to school bus fatality

Westal John Maine, 74, of Pequot Lakes, was sentenced today in relation to a March 22 accident that killed a 6-year-old child.

Maine was sentenced in Cass County District Court for violating a Minnesota statute that prohibits movement of a school bus after children are unloaded without first visually determining all children are a safe distance from the bus. Maine was the driver of a school bus that ran over and killed 6-year-old Evan lee Lindquist after dropping the boy off March 22 in Pine River.

Judge Davis Ten Eyck sentenced Maine to 10 days in the Cass County Jail and $135 fine for the misdemeanor offense. All the jail time was suspended for one year on the following conditions: Main must participate in speaking engagements with area bus drivers in an effort to educate them and stress the importance of bus operator safety; write a letter to Evan's family explaining what occurred at the time of the accident; and participate in victim-offender mediation if the family requests such mediation.

Maine stopped to let the child off the bus and saw the child cross the road in front of the bus. Maine than became distracted by other children on the bus and turned around to deal with those children.

When he turned back around, he failed to see that the child he let off was still standing in front of the bus. At that point, Maine resumed driving his route. Moments later, he felt a bump toward the rear of the bus. In his rear view mirror, he saw the child lying in the road.

Maine immediately called for help, then backed the bus up stopping several feet from the child. The investigation revealed that the child would have been clearly visible in the mirrors that reflect the front of the bus at the time Maine resumed his route.

Cass County Attorney Christopher Strandlie said in a press release at the time the charge was filed that under the law, Maine's driving conduct does not support felony or gross misdemeanor charges. No drugs or alcohol were factors in the accident.

--Molly Miron