UPDATED: Red Deer firefighter chases school bus that hit tree

School district responds to parents

A Red Deer man who says he witnessed a school bus hit a tree and speed-limit sign on his street earlier this week had no intention of letting the bus driver get away.

Kurt Stenberg, a Red Deer firefighter and EMT, said there was a loud bang when the bus uprooted a small tree and flatten the sign on Monday afternoon.

“(The driver) was kind of out of control. The bus was kind of swaying back and forth from going up on the curb and back down again,” said Stenberg who was taking his daughter out of their truck in front of their house at the time of the collision.

When the bus didn’t stop, he got back into his truck with his daughter and found the bus on a nearby close.

He said at first he wasn’t sure it was the same bus, but confronted the driver at her window and she seemed slow to respond to his questions.

“I thought I saw a little bit of damage so I immediately pulled the truck over right in front of the bus so she couldn’t pull away as I confronted her more on it.”

Then he called 911 and went to talk to the kids on the bus. They were concerned and said they really liked their bus driver.

Stenberg said he wondered if she was having a medical issue.

“I’m glad no one ended up getting hurt. I’m glad it came to an end there,” Stenberg said.

A bus driver with Prairie Bus Lines Ltd. was charged with impaired driving and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

Bruce Buruma, director of community relations with Red Deer Public Schools, said École Barrie Wilson School principal Chris Good was on the school bus Tuesday morning with students who ride that bus route to reassure students and parents.

Eighteen students from the elementary school were on the bus Monday afternoon when it allegedly collided with a sign and tree on Valley Green. No one was injured.

“There’s a few kids who still have some challenges. There’s a couple of families that said their kids don’t want to go back on the bus,” Buruma said on Wednesday.

But kids are resilient and the school is working to get things back to normal, he said.

Red Deer Public has 3,500 students who use yellow school buses from Prairie Bus Lines.

He said a lot of parents have contacted the school district to get clarification on what happened.

“We’ve had a number of e-mails and calls. They just want reassurance that things are going to be good. They want acknowledgment from Prairie Bus Lines who have acknowledged the difficulties of this and what it’s meant.”

Buruma said the school district will be working very closely with the bus company that has been a valued partner with some really awesome bus drivers.

“We need that assurance from them this is well taken care of. Their motto is ‘Safely Home’ and we need to be assured of that. They’ve shown that commitment over the years. We believe it’s an isolated incident.

“We’re still very shocked and concerned about what happened. It was a difficult day for the kids. We’re concerned about their safety and care. That’s our paramount responsibility.”

He said a lot of parents have appreciated how Red Deer Public responded.

“It’s nice to get the assurance from families that they’re confident in what we were able to do given the circumstances.”

Shelly Joy Kolodychuk, 42, is also charged with failing to remain at the scene of a collision.

szielinski@reddeeradvocate.com

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