AA Transportation drivers aid in Boston evacuation
BOSTON — School bus drivers here played a vital role in moving people away from the site of the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
Around 5 a.m. on Monday, April 15, drivers from AA Transportation Co. began their previously scheduled service of shuttling runners to the start of the Boston Marathon. They also transported injured runners from medical tents during the race.
After two bombs exploded near the finish line at 2:49 p.m., the eight AA Transportation drivers — Blanca Lugo, Hector Vazquez, Edward Bourgault, William Hogan, Jose Blanco, Todd Williams, Mike Ciesluk and Robert Amadei — stepped up and responded to the emergency.
AA Transportation President Ron Ernenwein said that although the company office had lost most communication with the drivers, they quickly began working with authorities to transport people away from the site.
“Not one person opted to go home, complained the assignment was too hard or took a break after the 18th hour of shuttling,” Ernenwein wrote in a letter commending the drivers. “The area they were working in was complete mayhem, and with their professionalism, this group brought composure and calm for the folks that they transported.”
Julie D’Ambra, AA Transportation’s director of HR and safety, said that Williams was not far from the explosions as he was driving his bus to the medical tent on Boylston St.
The eight drivers evacuated runners and spectators away from the area, continuing their service into the evening.
“People were literally jumping out in front of their buses to get out of Boston,” D’Ambra said. “Blanca even took some dogs on her bus to get them off the streets.”
Authorities tapped into the school buses’ GPS systems to divert the drivers around roadblocks and get them to those who were stranded.
“I am so impressed with [the drivers],” D’Ambra said. “There was not one who worried about themselves or how tired they were or that they hadn’t eaten or what they would be paid.”
Durham partners with first responders for safety training
Durham School Services recently partnered with Illinois first responders from Newport Township, Beach Park and Zion in a safety training drill for the evacuation of school buses.
Officials said the first responders reached out to Durham, which is a subsidiary of National Express Corp., to learn more about bus safety following a school bus accident in the area. More than 30 local firefighters and paramedics participated in Durham’s training program on bus evacuations in April to better enable them to assist in an emergency on a school bus.
The first responders explored five styles of school buses and could see how each emergency exit worked, including the different door options and roof hatches. They also learned how the wheelchair lifts operate manually in the event of a power loss.
Officials said the experience proved valuable for the first responders, especially those who had never been on a school bus.
“Following the tragic accident involving our school bus near Wadsworth, my team was proud to show the level of training required for each of them to be certified to drive a school bus,” said Rita Maki, general manager of Durham’s Beach Park, Ill., bus facility. “They take their jobs very seriously and appreciate the chance to train others on their equipment in the event it helps a student one day.”
Newport Township Fire Lt. Jeff Fanning, head of the first responders, commended the bus company for the training it provides its employees and thanked the Durham team in Beach Park for sharing its knowledge and experience.
47-year bus driver honored
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Pat Beesmer was recognized in April for nearly half a century of exemplary service behind the wheel of a yellow bus.
Beesmer, who works for The Trans Group’s Ethan Allen Transportation, was named Ulster County’s School Bus Driver of the Year.
Ulster County officials held a ceremony on April 18 to honor Beesmer and other pupil transporters and to promote Operation Safe Stop Day, a statewide program that seeks to bolster school bus safety through education and enforcement efforts.
In Ulster County, supporters wrote to recommend Beesmer for the School Bus Driver of the Year honor.
Beesmer’s supervisor, Bree Allen, said that she “has touched many children’s and families’ hearts” during her 47 years as a school bus driver. Also, Allen noted, “Pat travels some of the most difficult roads and hills in our district and has never had a problem.”
Beesmer has worked for Ethan Allen Transportation since 2003, and she has not had an accident during her employment there, Allen said.
Barbara Carlson’s youngest son rode Beesmer’s bus, and the mother wrote in a recommendation letter that Beesmer “greeted us each morning and afternoon with a huge, contagious smile and kind, encouraging words for our son. ... He was new to the school, and her warmth undoubtedly helped him transition.”
Inspired by Beesmer’s demeanor on the job, Carlson decided to become a school bus driver herself.
Robyn Bowers-McKenna, a mother of three kids who have been passengers on Beesmer’s bus, wrote that the veteran driver is “very tuned in to every child’s needs — those who occasionally get bus sick, and those who miss Mom or Dad on their first day of school.”
Beesmer started driving a school bus in 1966 when her youngest child was starting school. Over the years, she has worked for various contractors — and she even owned her own bus company for 15 years — but the entire time, she has been driving Kingston City School District students.
“Even after 47 years of driving, I still look forward to driving my route each day,” Beesmer said. “I love what I do. ... The most rewarding feeling is when I am out and about and a former student stops me to say ‘hello’ and reminisce about when he or she was a child on my bus.”
Lamers tests alt-fuel buses
GREEN BAY, Wis. — In the past year, Lamers Bus Lines began working with hybrid and propane buses.
Cindi Lawler, school bus operations manager, said that the company is closely tracking these alternative-fuel buses to determine their benefits and to compare them to diesel units.
“We are eager to review the data after the first year of operation and determine where the savings are and what type of operation will benefit the most from these advances in technology,” Lawler said.
STI wins biggest contract
WALL, N.J. — In December, Student Transportation Inc. announced that it had secured the largest transportation agreement in its history. The contractor will begin serving two Nebraska school districts — Omaha Public Schools and Millard Public Schools — in August. The company will provide about 530 vehicles, including more than 400 new propane buses from Blue Bird. IC Bus is to supply additional vehicles to fulfill the contract.
Transporte Sonnell buys new buses, goes solar
COROZAL, Puerto Rico — In March, Transporte Sonnell bought 20 new Thomas Built C2 buses. Also, the company is tapping an alternative energy source to power its office: the sun.
“We will be the first school bus company in Puerto Rico that will generate the energy for our headquarter building from 100% solar,” said Hernán Burgos, vice president of operations.
FirstGroup donates $112K
CINCINNATI — FirstGroup America, parent company of First Student, recently donated more than $112,000 to Children’s Miracle Network, a nonprofit that raises funds for more than 170 children’s hospitals. FirstGroup America employees raised the money through direct-deposit donations, company contributions and employee fundraisers.