Three Buses Involved in Railroad Crossing Incident - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

04/07/05

Three Buses Involved in Railroad Crossing Incident

We told you about students holding up a railroad crossing arm for their school bus to pass. Now there's more. First, the driver was fired for allowing students to get off the bus while a train was close to the crossing. Next, Savannah-Chatham schools say they may want to end their contract with bus company Laidlaw.

Now, WTOC has learned about new details surrounding Monday's initial railroad crossing incident. It turns out there was more than just one bus involved.

"It bothers me," said Laidlaw spokesman Rufus Smith. "I take it very seriously."

Just when Smith thought one school bus was bad, it was even worse. "There were a total of three buses involved," said Smith.

According to Laidaw, the bus driver in question raised this railroad crossing arm so two other buses--without students--and other cars could get through. Then, he had four students raise the crossing arm so he could drive the bus through. He was fired, but the other two bus drivers were reprimanded.

One of those drivers trains other bus drivers. She was demoted. But Smith insists the blame still falls on the original driver with the busload of students. "Had he not done what he did, we would not be having this conversation," he said.

"I've seen it before," said Stephanie Steingruber, the parent who blew the whistle on the railroad crossing incident. "Right before that, another bus came through and did the zig-zag thing through the lights."

"We have legitimate concerns," Savannah-Chatham schools acting superintendent George Bowen said. He has told WTOC the contract with Laidlaw is on shaky ground.

"Either fix the problems, or we will take means to remedy the situation," he said.

Smith isn't sure what other concerns the district has. He says the bottom line is school buses are safer than ever, and bus drivers are victims of a negative stigma. "One bad apple spoils the whole bunch, and they feel they've been put in the bushel with one bad apple."

George Bowen plans on meeting with Laidlaw next week. Meanwhile, CSX Railways finished their investigation. They say no citations will be given out because they didn't physically see anyone raise the crossing arms.

They will be coming to Savannah in the future to talk to bus drivers about railroad crossing safety.

Reported by: Don Logana, dlogana@wtoc.com

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