Minn. family in fatal crash was on motorcross trip

April 2, 2012 - 9:25 AM
Deadly Motor Home Crash

Officials work the scene of a Minnesota-bound motor home on Sunday, April 1, 2012 in a ravine off Interstate 35 in northeast Kansas. The Kansas Highway Patrol said the northbound Freightliner motor home was carrying 18 people and pulling a trailer when the driver lost control at 9 a.m. Sunday, and crashed into the ravine. Five were killed. (AP Photo/KMBC-TV)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Minnesota family and some friends were taking a spring break vacation to see a motorcross race when the motor home in which they were traveling crashed in northeast Kansas, killing five family members, a family friend said Monday.

The crash, which also injured 13 people, occurred Sunday morning on Interstate 35 when a Freightliner box truck pulling a trailer hit a guardrail and a concrete bridge rail before crashing into a ravine near Williamsburg, about 70 miles southwest of Kansas City, Mo., the Kansas Highway Patrol said. All 18 people were inside the vehicle, which had living quarters inside.

The patrol identified the dead as Melissa Kerber, 24, and Tom Kerber, 25, of New Prague, Minn., and Jessica Kerber, 10, Joy Kerber, 14, and James Kerber, 14, of Jordan, Minn.

Pauline Kerber, 46, of Jordan, Minn., a widowed mother of 12, was in critical but stable condition Monday morning. Her 17-year-old son Adam Kerber, who was driving the vehicle, was in critical condition.

A neighbor of Pauline Kerber's, Mary Jo Marks, told The Associated Press that Pauline Kerber and her family live about a half-mile from the Scott County fairgrounds, which hosts motorcross races. She said the family planned to spend spring break on a big family motorcross trip.

Marks said Pauline Kerber home-schooled the children until several years ago. She said Tom Kerber was the oldest of the children and was married to Melissa. Kerber's late husband, Glen, operated an auto store on the family property.

Overland Park Regional Medical Center, where Pauline and Adam Kerber are hospitalized, released a statement Sunday night on behalf of the family thanking the public for the "outpouring of love and support."

"We appreciate the prayers of so many, and appreciate you respecting our privacy as we mourn our deep loss," said the statement from the hospital, which also treated a critically injured 8-year-old boy before transferring him to a children's hospital.

Payton M. Hammers, 2, of Chaska, Minn., and Matt Vanbank, of Jordan, Minn., were in serious condition Monday at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. Conditions were not immediately available for two other children listed by the highway patrol as being transported to Children's Mercy. Other victims were taken to regional hospitals after the crash.

Kirk Nelson, superintendent of Jordan Public School District in Minnesota, said students had last week off for spring break, and students were scheduled to return Monday. The district planned to have several additional grief counselors and ministers on hand.

"It's a big shock to everybody, that's for sure," he said. "We've got some good staff, and they'll all come together," he said. "We'll get started on healing."

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Associated Press reporter Gretchen Ehlke in Milwaukee contributed to this report.