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Ogden •Justine McDonald heard a crash and looked outside her balcony window.

"We just thought we heard a gunshot," McDonald said.

But it was a lot stranger than a shooting: An 8-year-old boy and his 5-year-old sister escaped injury early Thursday after Ogden police said they decided to take the family van for a drive.

Lt. Danielle Croyle said the 8-year-old decided about 2 a.m. that he and his sister had to go to the store. So they climbed into the van, buckled their seat belts and drove away from their apartment building at 525 Park Blvd.

They had barely made it out of their driveway when they struck a tree across the street, Croyle said. If the van had traveled a few more feet, it would have tumbled down an embankment and into the Ogden River.

McDonald and her roommate, Holly Maxwell, exited their apartment and "ran down the stairs like a herd of elephants," Maxwell said.

Maxwell stopped in the apartment building's yard and called 911. A passing car stopped and a woman removed the children from the van and brought them into the yard, Maxwell said.

"I asked the little kids, 'Where's your mommy and daddy?' " Maxwell said. The boy said his mother was asleep inside their apartment, Maxwell said.

Maxwell said the children were calm, but worried their mother would be upset. The kids wouldn't let go of Maxwell's hands, she said, so when a police officer arrived, Maxwell and the children followed him to the family's apartment.

When no one answered the officer's knocks, the officer turned the door handle and found the apartment unlocked, Maxwell said.

Maxwell said the mother had no reaction to news of what happened to the children.

Croyle said police aren't quite sure why the boy suddenly decided he had to go to the store, but said there was no evidence that either of the children had been neglected.

Croyle said no criminal charges were expected. Police suspect the children totaled the van.