Investigations say city couldn’t predict or prevent deadly Lilydale Park landslide

Two investigations paid for by the City of St. Paul show that the May 22 landslide in Lilydale Park that killed two fourth-graders on a fossil-hunting field trip was caused by natural occurrences.

The reports indicate that while city officials knew there was erosion at the park, they were unable to predict or prevent the deadly landslide.

Parts of Lilydale Park will remain closed for now.

Four students from Peter Hobart School were trapped when the ground on the slope gave way. Two — Zack Mohamed Fofana and Haysem Sani — were killed.

The investigations were made by Hamline University School of Law Dean Don Lewis, a former assistant U.S. attorney; and Ryan Benson, senior engineer from Northern Technologies Incorporated.

The full Lewis report and the NTI report are available online.

The NTI report concludes:

“…you should consider all bluff areas of similar geometry and geologic layers in and around Lilydale Regional Park as being susceptible to this type of natural process and at risk relative to collapse. Due to the many variables within this region it would be difficult to predict with any certainty if, when, of what magnitude and where the next slide will occur.

“The only variable that is predictable with a high level of certainty is that slopes of this nature, although apparently stable to a non-professional, are inherently unstable, will undergo additional weathering, and are highly likely to undergo failures of varying degrees in the future.”

Mayor Chris Coleman, in announcing the results of the reports, said:

“My heart goes out to the parents and families of Mohamed and Haysem and others hurt or impacted by the May 22nd landslide.  Moving forward, the city will work closely with the National Park Service and other partners to assess and review our Lilydale Park operations plan.”

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