By Marianne Curtis
A thirteen year boy is being recognized as a local hero after he braved a snowstorm to get help after the bus he was riding became stuck in the snow on the side of a rural road near Sandilands.
The bus carrying 29 students ranging in age from 5 to 13, was stuck for about 5 and a half hours on October 4.
“At one point, most of the kids had cried themselves to sleep because they were hungry, they tired, they were thirsty and they wanting their parents,” said Alexi Catellier, who was also the oldest student on the bus.
The more the bus driver attempted to dig the bus‘ wheels out of the snow, the deeper into the snow they sank. While students waited, Catellier says he and another student melted snow in empty bottles to keep the students hydrated.
Around 8 p.m., five hours after the students had been picked up from school, Catellier says he had no option but to head out on foot and seek help. He encountered a man who contacted nearby CN Rail workers.
“The way the wind was blowing, and with the snow, it was freezing cold. And I was just wearing running shoes, track pants, a thin sweater and a little fall jacket,” he recalled.
Catellier went back to the bus and along with two others, carried some of the young children — including his five-year-old brother, Bevan — to a nearby home so they could warm up and use the washroom.
Not long after, the CN Rail workers arrived and pulled the bus out of the snow. The bus was back en route by 9 p.m and all of the students were home before midnight.
Catellier’s mom, Tatiana says she is proud of her son but she is hoping the division will review what happened.
“I’m glad that he did it, and I’m glad that he had the potential to do it. But I’m not happy that he was in that position, and put in that position,” she said. “Heaven forbid someone was diabetic and needed insulin,” she said. “We’d have a real problem with no food, no water and no medical facility anywhere around.”
Denis Ferre, superintendent of Division Scolaire Franco-Manitobaine say they are investigating the incident.
“Are there other things we could have done? We’re doing to have to look at the whole situation, what took place,” said Ferré. “The whole issue of procedures: what happens in nasty weather, how are the bus drivers trained, about kids leaving the buses, supervision issues and contacting the parents [to] make sure everybody is up to speed.”
He did confirm that the thirteen year old student along with the other children should not have been allowed to leave the bus.