Blizzard strands busload of students

This jackknifed logging truck preventing the writer from going into Woodridge. A few hours later a bus load of students gets stranded along the same road. 

By Marianne Curtis

Two school divisions are looking into their procedures after an incident that saw at least twenty-nine students aged 5 to 13 stranded on their school bus in the Sandilands earlier this month.

Denie Ferre, superintendent of Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine (DSFM) confirmed that twenty-nine students were stranded on their bus after it got stuck near the community of Sandilands for five and a half hours on October 4. A second bus got stuck near Woodridge.

“The students were warm, they had access to a home and they were safe and secure,” stated Ferre. “They biggest thing is the students are safe and they got home okay.”

The bus, shared between the DSFM and Seine River School Division was taking children home from school in La Broquerie when the bus went into the ditch.

“The bus was only 100 metres from the home of a student on the bus,” Ferre confirmed. The driver radioed the dispatcher who notified First Student, a privately owned company that contracts buses to several school divisions.

“He called the tow company but they couldn’t get there,” Ferre contined. “Parents were contacted and told it was going to be a long wait.”

Several teenagers on the bus walked the smaller children to the nearby house. One student, walked about 200 metres up the road to where a Hydro crew was working to ask for help. While they unable to help pull the bus out but they did offer use of their phones but were told the bus had a two-way radio.

Meanwhile, according to DSFM, First Student’s transportation supervisor fought his way though the storm and came across a CN crew who can and pulled the bus out and followed while the driver continued on its route.

SeineRiver superintendent Mike Borgfjord said reports from students on the bus were that they were close to a house and children went in groups to use the bathroom and get warm.

A second bus, this time a SeineRiver bus with high school students, got stuck near Woodridge. Normally, another bus would come to fetch the kids, but the roads were too bad, Borgfjord said.

In the case of the second bus, some parents picked up their kids in all-weather vehicles.  The rest of the students got home after the snowplows reached them.

“There’s always constant communication,” Borgfjord said. “We used a lot of fuel that day keeping the buses warm.”

Meanwhile, school was closed that day in communities like Sprague and Vita due to power outages. By afternoon, schools already in session in other communities were faced with deciding to end the day early but due the ages of some of the children the decision was made to keep them in school until the end of the day so children would not be left at home alone, noted Ferre.

Both school divisions are reviewing these incidents to ensure that better procedures are in place in the event that something like this occurs again.



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