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Ponoka school bus ride nearly ends in tragedy

Father is calling for review of bus driver policies and procedures
Close-up of a stop sign on the side of a yellow school bus. (File photo)

A Ponoka father is calling for change after an “unacceptable” incident occurred with his daughter on the school bus Monday.

Jordan Harden says that his six-year-old daughter was being dropped off at St. Augustine school by the bus Monday morning when tragedy nearly struck; as his daughter was exiting, the driver closed the door catching her backpack, then proceeded to put the vehicle into gear and started driving away, dragging the child.

A sharp-eyed teacher witnessed what happened and was able to alert the driver that something was amiss averting a potential tragedy; however, the child still ended up being dragged around 10-15 feet according to her father.

While the child was ultimately unhurt, the scary incident ended up growing to extreme concern for Harden when he found out that the driver was allegedly able to proceed with his day after the incident.

Harden, who works in industry, noted that in most industries he is aware of any type of near-miss such as this would have meant an immediate work stoppage while the situation is assessed, something that didn’t happen in this instance.

“That’s very disturbing to me,” said Harden.

After posting about the incident on social media, Harden says that quite a few people have suggested that “accidents happen,” something that isn’t sitting right with him.

“It’s completely unacceptable,” Harden said.

Complicating matters is the fact that the incident occurred at St. Augustine School, a Saint Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic (STAR) school division school while the school bus was operated by Wolf Creek Public Schools.

“We take very seriously any incident of this nature and have spoken directly with the family,” said Tim De Ruyuck, the Wolf Creek superintendent.

“Safety of students is our first priority, and as such we have launched an investigation into this incident. Alternative arrangements have been made to ensure that the bus route continues to run while the investigation is ongoing. Although we can not comment at this time about potential outcomes of the investigation, our commitment is to work closely with all involved, including the family, and our transportation department.”

According to Harden, the driver of the route his daughter takes has already been replaced; however, he ultimately hopes the driver is taken off the off the road. Harden noted that the driver wasn’t replaced from the route until after he found out the driver was still on the road and called to complain.

“The handling of (the situation) is making it 10 times worse,” Harden said.

Something else Harden says he was told is due to the “many policies” in place, incidents like this “should not” happen, yet it did, which is making him question the driver’s abilities.

“The driver should not be driving children,” Harden said.

“I hope everyone is taking this seriously.”

When approached for comment, STAR Catholic also issued a statement that the matter was being investigated.

“We are working closely with Wolf Creek School Division as they formally investigate this incident,” said Caitlin Kehoe, STAR Catholic manager of communications via media release.

“Being mindful that an investigation is ongoing, we will not be commenting further on the incident until the process is concluded.”

As for Harden and his family? Harden says that his daughter is off the bus for the foreseeable future though the hope is to potentially get her back on the bus with a different driver, maybe in a few months time.

“I don’t think we’re comfortable with (going back) yet,” said Harden.

In the meantime, Harden is hopeful that this incident will cause the policies and procedures guiding bus drivers to be reviewed so that an incident like this can’t happen to anyone else’s child.

Kevin Sabo

About the Author: Kevin Sabo

I’m Kevin Sabo. I’ve been a resident of the Castor area for the last 12 years and counting, first coming out here in my previous career as an EMT.
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