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Douglass kids told bus driver not to cross bridge

By Lauren Seabrook, lseabrook@kwch.com
Published On: Nov 01 2013 06:27:42 PM CDT
Updated On: Nov 01 2013 06:51:29 PM CDT
DOUGLASS, Kan. -

A decision to "go for it" turned a Douglass school bus into a vessel. "I'm amazed somebody didn't drown," said Mark Jones.

Towers worked all day Friday to pull the school bus from rushing river water while many were left wondering how it got there in the first place. "It's really difficult to tell the depth of the water once it gets over the concrete edge," said Kansas Highway Patrol Trooper Gary Warner.

Corey Gustafson is one of ten children who were inside the bus when it went into the water. He says the driver thought he could make it across safely. "Me, Josh and Robin were telling him to stop, stop, stop … the river … the thing is flooded. And he says no, no, no I can cross it like I did last time," said Gustafson.

The kids were right. "I can't believe the driver, risk verses value, took this bridge with that amount of water coming," said Jones.

The investigation of what exactly happened continues but Highway Patrol investigators have a preliminary idea. "The bridge had anywhere from 18-24 inches of water going across it. When the bus entered that, the water literally swept it over the edge of the bridge," said Warner.

Gustafson remembers it vividly. "The back wheel caught the rock or the lip of the bridge," he said.

"When the bus hit that it caused it to tip over onto its passenger side. Then it fell into the creek," said Warner.

Water poured into the school bus as the kids worked to get the emergency door open. "By the time we got it open it was to my knees," said Gustafson.

Mark Jones lives nearby. He brought his kids down Friday to see the bridge they drive over all the time. "Many times we drive through 15-20 inches but when it's going to catch your sheet metal on the side of your truck, or your bus, you should've had second thoughts about it," said Jones.

Jones and other parents wonder why the driver did not go around, but they are thankful he helped the kids get to safety. "I'm not mad at anyone. We've all made mistakes and the truth will come out and we'll have to see what actions will be taken but I'm not going to pursue anything. I'm not going to be an angry parents or go up there and demand resignation," said Gustafson's mother Heather Rotramel.

Halloween 2013 is a day the children who kept calm and saved each other from the water will never forget. "These kids did what they needed to do. They followed the instructions of the bus driver and they were able to evacuate the bus," said Warner.

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