A bus driver who was involved in an accident in November with a tractor-trailer is being commended for her quick thinking actions.
Katy Van Dusen has worked for the Churchill County School District since 2003 and had never been involved in an accident. She was on her bus route going south on U.S. Highway 95 when she was approaching a stop for one of her students.
Once stopped, Van Dusen noticed in her rearview mirror a tractor-trailer going 60 mph was not slowing down. She hadn’t hit the parking brake yet so she moved the bus forward and on to the shoulder as far as she could.
Bracing herself and advising the students to stay calm while the truck sideswiped the left side of the bus. After the truck had passed, the students became a bit frantic but Van Dusen assured them that everything was fine and calmed the students down.
Transportation Director Steve Russell said after watching the video and being debriefed on the accident, Van Dusen handled everything right, just like she was trained to do.
“Katy was very calm after the accident and her training kicked in right away,” Russell said. “There was no hesitation on her part about what needed to be done. She immediately contacted our department to inform us of what had happened, calmed and checked out the kids and waited for assistance. She followed protocol to the ‘T.’”
Van Dusen said on that particular day, there were 17 students on the bus ranging from elementary to high school.
“We all got very luck that day,” Van Dusen said. “I knew the truck was going to hit the bus and I’m so thankful that none of the students, especially the ones in the back of the bus where the truck hit got hurt. We were all just very shaken up from it.”
Russell said the truck driver acknowledged he saw the flashing yellow lights of the bus but did not see any red lights. The driver was cited for the accident.
“It’s a miracle the accident wasn’t any worse,” Russell said. “The tractor-trailer almost had a head-on collision with a car coming from the opposite direction when he tried to pass the bus once he noticed it had stopped. Everyone in this situation got very lucky.”
Bus drivers are required to take 10 hours of training a year. Russell said the training covers a broad spectrum of scenarios and that current bus accidents in other districts encourages more training.
Van Dusen said at the time of the accident her training just kicked in.
“I remember being calm and following the procedures that I learned,” Van Dusen said. “I was fine after the accident but later that night when I was home and could really process what happened, I began to get a little upset when I began thinking about it and about how much worse it could have been.”
The following day after the accident, Van Dusen was on leave for two days — standard protocol — she brought donuts to her students and rode to the school with them, talking to them about the accident.
“The students safety and how they are coping with what happened is important to me and it will always be,” Van Dusen said. “Those kids mean a lot to me, I’ve had them on the same bus route for four years, those are my students.”
Russell said each new bus in the district has two cameras, one in the front and one in the back; the older buses have only one camera.
Van Dusen was recognized at a school board meeting for her actions.
“We almost had a horrible accident where students could have been hurt,” Board President Ron Evans said. “Because of the actions of one of our employees, a bus driver, all of our kids are safe. When watching the video you can see that she had been trained properly and knew exactly what to do.”