Four children were put in harm's way by their school bus driver today. It happened on bus 996 on the way to Southwest Middle School this morning.
It all started at a railroad crossing. One parent was watching the whole situation, and she couldn't believe what she saw.
The bells were ringing, warning lights were flashing, and the red and white arms blocked off Chevis Road. Stephanie Steingruber was taking her daughter to school, and a school bus was in front of them. Then the unthinkable happened.
"Four kids got off the bus and lifted the arms up so the bus could go under," Steingruber said.
She has seen it happen before. "I've seen adults off the bus and lift so they could get through. Same story. But never kids," she said. "First time with children, that's why I called you guys."
But it gets worse. This time, a train was headed their way. "The conductor was screaming out the window to the kids to get out of the way."
Steingruber says the train was not far away when the kids crossed over the railroad, back to the bus.
Steingruber called the bus company, Laidlaw, right after it happened. "They could have died," Steingruber. "The train was so close."
"This was just an act of stupidity," said Laidlaw's Rufus Smith. He says he had never heard of this happening until we told him. "We train our drivers better than that."
Smith says the driver in question has seven years experience with a clean record. "You wouldn't think a driver of this experience would do this, but we will deal with it," he told us.
And he did. "I fired the driver."
"I hope so," said Steingruber. "They need to train their drivers better."
Steingruber thinks something needs to be done before it happens again. "I will not let my child ride the bus," she said. "Sooner or later, one of these kids will get killed."
Tomorrow and Wednesday, Laidlaw will be holding emergency safety meetings with all of their bus drivers to go over railroad crossing procedures.