Iowa School Bus Fire Claims Driver, Student

Thomas McMahon
Posted on December 12, 2017

OAKLAND, Iowa — A school bus driver and a student here were killed in a blaze on their bus on Tuesday morning.

Lt. Rob Ambrose of the Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office told School Bus Fleet that the driver and the student were the only occupants of the bus at the time.

Max Christensen, state pupil transportation director for the Iowa Department of Education, told SBF that the school bus was operated by Riverside Community School District, which has a fleet of about 17 buses.

The incident occurred in a rural area east of the small town of Oakland, which is in southwestern Iowa near the border with Nebraska. The school bus driver was picking up the student at a farm.

Ambrose said that the bus driver had apparently backed into a roadside ditch when the fire broke out at the rear of the bus.

The bus became engulfed in flames, and the driver and the student died in the fire, authorities confirmed. It is not clear at this point why they were not able to evacuate from the bus.

"That is still under investigation," Ambrose said. "We haven’t determined that, but it is believed that they could not get out the door normally used [the front door]."

The student’s mother called 911. Deputies were dispatched at 7:02 a.m., and the first deputy arrived at the scene at 7:15 a.m., Ambrose said. Firefighters also responded to the scene.

“Upon arrival, deputies from the Sheriff’s Office and firefighters from Oakland and Carson found the bus to be completely involved,” Chief Deputy John Reynolds said in a press release. “Once the fire was contained, the remains of two individuals were found on the bus.”

The Pottawattamie County Sheriff's Office identified the victims as school bus driver Donald Hendricks, 74, and student Megan Klindt, 16.

Ambrose told SBF that he did not yet have information about the school bus, such as the age and make. Based on a photo from the Omaha World-Herald, the bus appears to be an older Type C conventional model. It was not yet clear how many emergency exits the bus was equipped with.

Christensen, the state director, said that the incident was heartbreaking, especially considering the timing.

“It’s a tragic event no matter what time of year it happens, but being so close to Christmas makes it all the more tragic,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are with the families.”

The incident remains under investigation by local authorities. Also, the National Transportation Safety Board has launched a full team investigation, SBF has learned.

Dr. Timothy Mitchell, superintendent of Riverside Community School District, said in a statement on the district website that schools were in session on Tuesday. A crisis team, school counselors, and volunteers were deployed to all of the district's schools to support students and staff.

"This morning, the Riverside Community School District suffered a tragedy when we lost a student and an employee in a school bus accident," Mitchell said. "Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones."

The superintendent added that the district is cooperating with law enforcement in the investigation of the incident.

"The safety of students and staff is the top priority for the district," Mitchell said.

Related Topics: bus fires, evacuation drills, fatalities, Iowa, school bus stops

Thomas McMahon Executive Editor
Comments ( 2 )
  • Nathan

     | about 3 years ago

    Our thoughts and prayers are with the families, district, and community in this difficult time. Stay strong!

  • See all comments
More Stories
Albin J. Weiler, a longtime school bus driver, wrote "Driven to Learn," which details his experiences and those of his fellow drivers and includes pupil transportation tips. Photo courtesy Ron Humphrey, Windjammer Adventure Publishing

Ohio School Bus Driver Publishes Book

“Driven to Learn,” written by Albin J. Weiler, details his experiences and those of his fellow drivers behind the wheel and includes pupil transportation lessons and tips.

The auto-reversing door feature is available on all versions of the Saf-T-Liner C2 (shown here) and allows the front entry doors to reopen automatically if they sense an object or obstruction in the doorway. Photo courtesy Thomas Built Buses

Thomas Built Buses Debuts Auto-Reversing Doors

The feature is available on all versions of the school bus manufacturer’s Saf-T-Liner C2 and allows the front entry doors to reopen automatically if they sense an object or obstruction in the doorway.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has officially extended the compliance deadline for its federal driver training requirement to Feb. 7, 2022. File photo

Update: FMCSA Officially Extends ELDT Compliance Deadline

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration officially delays the deadline for the final rule "Minimum Training Requirements for Entry-Level Commercial Motor Vehicle Operators" from Feb. 7, 2020, to Feb. 7, 2022. The agency released the official notice on Feb. 4.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from SBF delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the school bus industry and don't miss a thing!

We respect your data and privacy.
By clicking the submit button below, you are agreeing with Bobit Business Media’s Privacy Policy and this outlined level of consent.