Dansville bus accidents stir personal memories
At the time, this story didn’t make the news, but it will now. In 1988 an incident similar to what happened last Wednesday in Dansville occurred at the Fillmore Central School bus garage.
My then-six-year-old son Russell was left on the school bus. The difference was, this was at the end, not beginning, of the school day — and the shoulders of the roads on this particular day were treacherously covered with recent heavy snowfall.
Fillmore is no different from every other little place where everybody knows everything about everybody else. It was generally known that the gentleman who drove the bus had a bladder problem. At the end of his run, he was no doubt anxious to relieve himself. I would guess that he seldom if ever followed procedure in checking his bus for sleeping children, or those otherwise unattended.
Did the transportation superintendent know of the problem? If he did, did he consider it significant? In a region where jobs of any kind were scarce, and in a school known for its rampant nepotism, proficiency and capability never seemed to be primary considerations for employment.
Back home, as you might expect, things were in turmoil. Russell’s two older siblings had gotten off the bus, but before they could alert the driver that Russell hadn’t gotten off, he had pulled away. Mom’s initial reaction was to call the school — but it was after hours and the offices were closed. Nor was the bus supervisor at home.
We were (and still are) a one-vehicle family and I was away with the car. As I recall, this occurred during my brief sojourn as an OTR truck driver. No car was available to retrieve Russell.
About this time, reason prevailed: Russell would be found on the bus. Someone would bring him home soon, probably in the midget bus. Let’s just wait this out.
But in this instance, the driver did not return to his post.
Russell woke up and sat in the empty bus for a while. Then he let himself out.
He was a tough little kid. He knew the way. He started walking home.
Russell walked more than four miles. He had to cross a major highway and then walk in the middle of a rural road whose shoulders had not been cleared of snow.
The bus supervisor, who lived between our house and the school, but much closer to our house, spotted Russell walking and drove him the final mile home.
Everyone was pretty upset, especially Grandma, who made some angry calls to the school, demanding an apology and wanting to know if the driver was going to be fired.
There was no apology and, of course, we were told that personnel policy forbade divulgence of internal matters such as employee discipline.
The driver, as I recall, was given another route.
We thank God and our good fortune that nothing happened to our son on that long walk home.
The school district should be no less thankful.