(Adds details on driver, grief counseling at school children attended)
MINNEAPOLIS, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Three children were in critical condition on Friday a day after the car they were riding in slid into a near-freezing pond in suburban Minneapolis in a crash that has left two of their siblings dead, authorities and the family’s attorney said.
The mother and stepmother of the children was at the wheel with only a learner’s permit, which requires a licensed driver to be in the car with her, the Minnesota State Patrol said.
The car veered off a rain-slicked highway ramp on Thursday and plunged into a retention pond in St. Louis Park. The five children were trapped inside the vehicle as it sank into water up to 9 feet (2.7 meters) deep and remained there for up to 45 minutes, police said.
Alarious Coleman-Guerrido, 7, and Zenavia Rennie, 5, died on Thursday, the state patrol said. Three other young passengers, ages 1, 5 and 6, were in critical condition Friday at area hospitals, said Minneapolis attorney Rick Petry, who was representing the family.
The driver, Marion Guerrido, 23, escaped uninjured, according to the Minnesota State Patrol.
Guerrido, who lives in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, was dropping the children off at her mother’s house before heading to work when the crash happened an hour before sunrise, Petry said. Her husband was also on his way to work at the time.
“They are just like the typical American family,” the attorney said. “They were starting their day.”
The state patrol identified the other children as 1-year-old Aliyana Rennie, Zarihana Rennie, 6, and Amani Coleman-Guerrido, 5, all of Brooklyn Center.
The four older children attended Odyssey Academy in Brooklyn Center, where grief counselors were on hand Friday to help other students and staff, executive director John Sedey said, calling the crash a devastating blow for the school.
“You are never quite prepared for this kind of thing,” Sedey said.
The children were unresponsive after being pulled from the 1998 Pontiac Grand Am, which slid 40 feet (12 meters) down an embankment into a retention pond, said Jamie Zwilling, spokesman for St. Louis Park, a suburb west of Minneapolis.
Witnesses said they heard Guerrido calling for help and saw her standing knee deep in the water. Initial attempts to rescue the children were unsuccessful, said Lieutenant Eric Roeske, a spokesman for the state patrol.
Roeske said on Friday the state patrol would not provide updates on the status of the investigation until it is completed, “which will likely take several weeks.”
Police were investigating what caused the car to go off the ramp, which does not have guardrails, and whether the children were in seat belts or car seats, Roeske said. (Reporting by Karen Brooks and David Bailey; Editing by Colleen Jenkins, Bernadette Baum and Gunna Dickson)