Bus drives off with student loading gear below
January 8, 2010
It was a parent’s foremost fright.
Like every morning, Cheryl Turner dropped off her 12-year-old son at the school bus stop in downtown Winter Park on Monday morning and sat in the car to observe him as he boarded.
A Nordic skier, her son was carrying skis and an equipment bag that he needed to place in the cargo bay of the bus, accessed from the vehicle’s exterior on the door side.
At the same time, the bus driver saw another driver zipping past the bus, ignoring the extended bus-stop sign. The bus runner subsequently was chased by a Fraser/Winter Park Police officer, who also had been observing the bus.
Thinking the student had already boarded, the bus driver started moving forward.
But to Turner’s alarm, her son had not boarded the bus and was still loading his gear into the deep cavity of the cargo area.
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Her son was halfway in the bus compartment and the bus was moving.
“I ran out of the car as fast as I could and stopped the bus,” she said.
Turner waved down the driver before he accelerated.
Other than being shaken by the incident, her son was not injured.
“Thank goodness he wasn’t hurt,” Turner told the East Grand Board of Education the next day as she tried to temper her emotion.
“I’m lucky he’s alive.”
“This was a mistake made,” said School District Superintendent Nancy Karas.
The incident triggered renewed bus driver training and a review for all employees at the transportation building, she said.
The driver, who is new to the district this school year, had no prior incidents and is being re-educated about remaining aware of everything around the bus before taking off, as well as re-engaging in the safety of passengers amidst other outside stimuli that can be distracting, she said.
On Wednesday morning, a staff meeting assembled at the bus barn to review driver protocol.
“We understand the magnitude of what can happen with children and busses,” said East Grand Director of Transportation Dan Stock. “Everyone needs to be aware of what can happen in a particular situation.”
As a newly instituted precaution, Stock has directed drivers to instruct their passengers to let them know beforehand if they are going to be putting something in the cargo bay area, and to tell the driver when getting on the bus that they had put items in there.
At the Winter Park stop that Monday, “more students than usual” had been boarding the bus, Stock said, but added that doesn’t excuse the incident.
“We know there’s always a risk, and that’s whey we’ve heightened our training,” Karas said.
“We’re very, very thankful nothing happened. Instead, we got some reminders what could happen, and that we need to be paying attention at all times.”