Harold Dennis, a survivor of the fiery Carrollton, Ky., bus crash in 1988, gave a stirring presentation to NASDPTS members. Behind Dennis is an image of Larry Mahoney, the drunken driver who collided head-on with the bus.
Also at the NASDPTS conference, Minnesota state director Lt. Ed Carroll and Denny Coughlin of Minneapolis Public Schools gave a presentation on the fatal 2008 school bus crash in Cottonwood, Minn. They revealed some enlightening insights about that accident, in which four children were killed.
For example, it’s believed that a number of the bus passengers had shifted to one side of the bus to look at a passing train, which would have positioned them away from the point of impact of a pickup truck. After the bus was broadsided by a van, it began to tip and was struck by the truck in the side windows — one of the most vulnerable spots on a bus, Carroll and Coughlin said. The truck intruded into the bus almost to the center aisle.
Carroll and Coughlin emphasized the need for counseling and debriefing after severe crashes. They also noted that the bus driver, who was praised for his quick reaction in getting his students out of the bus, is still driving today.
The NASDPTS event also covered myriad changing federal and state regulations, and Barbara Duffield, policy director at the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, discussed mandates on transporting homeless students.
During regional updates, directors shared innovative programs that have been implemented in their states, but they also noted the toll that budget cuts have taken on their pupil transportation systems.
One positive note during the session was the breaking news that Michigan had just reinstated the funding for its state school bus inspection program, which had been slated to be cut.