Driver Hille Lamothe (left) saved student Tom Stowe's life by stopping him before an SUV passed his bus on the right. They are pictured with Transportation Coordinator Terry Chenette.
Second glance prevents tragic accident
Voluntown Public Schools
During her evening route on Oct. 18, veteran bus driver Hille Lamothe was navigating a back road to drop off high school student Tom Stowe. Lamothe pulled to the side of the road, engaged her bus’ flashing red lights and checked her mirrors before opening the doors to discharge him.
Upon checking her mirrors a second time, however, Lamothe stepped into action: She stopped Stowe from exiting the bus just as an SUV careened past on the right side, flattening his mailbox and flowerbed and missing the school bus by inches.
“If that child would have stepped out of the door before I looked or if I hadn’t been paying attention, he would have gotten killed,” Lamothe says.
The car also narrowly avoided striking a fence and a telephone pole. Its driver, upon passing the bus, continued down the road, despite causing property damage to Stowe’s home.
“I never thought someone would pass me on the right-hand side,” Lamothe says.
There was no sidewalk on the right of the bus, she adds, only the student’s front yard.
Lamothe was able to write down part of the vehicle’s license plate number when it passed her bus. She immediately notified her supervisor of the incident upon returning to the bus yard, and the police were contacted.
While she was driving home in her personal vehicle later that evening, Lamothe spotted a familiar SUV — it was the car that had nearly struck her bus. She copied down the remainder of the license plate number.
Thanks to Lamothe, police recently charged the driver with operating a vehicle with a suspended license, passing a school bus on the right, risk of injury to a minor, reckless endangerment and criminal mischief.
Lamothe says that keeping the students on her bus safe is about diligence.
“I’m constantly looking in my mirrors to make sure that I’m aware of everything that’s around me,” she says.
Terry Chenette, transportation coordinator for Voluntown Public Schools, says Lamothe deserves recognition for her actions that day.
Lamothe disagrees. “I was just doing my job,” she says.
— BRITTANY-MARIE SWANSON