School Bus Hits Loose Trailer and NOBODY DOES ANYTHING?  If a Jet Engine Fell out of the sky and hit a School Bus what would be happening?

School Bus Incidents: Are You Really Ready?

Incident 2: October 31, 2006; Trailer vs. School Bus

This incident occurred on a two-lane, east-west road that is heavily traveled during the morning and evening rush hours. A class C school bus (the most common type on the road) with six special education students, an aide, and the driver were headed east when a westbound trailer loaded with concrete construction materials being pulled by a truck became disconnected and veered into the eastbound lane. The school bus, traveling about 45 mph, struck the fully loaded trailer head-on. This sent the school bus into the westbound lane and into the ditch next to the road. The roadway was littered with trailer pieces, rebar, dry concrete mix, and form boards.

(7) This is what was left of the runaway trailer after it collided head-on with the school bus. (Photo by author.)
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I responded on the initial tone-out for “vehicle accident involving a school bus,” along with two engine companies. On my arrival, after the first-in engine, the scene looked much worse than it was. The engine crew arrived prior to EMS and was evaluating the scene and the school bus occupants. The officer advised me rather quickly that there were no injuries and that they were removing the students from the bus. I assumed command and met with the engine officer for a briefing, after which I cancelled all additional responding units except for EMS. Although the school bus aide advised us that everyone was uninjured, I wanted EMS to check out the students. At that time, a call was made for a school district representative and an empty backup bus. Both arrived shortly thereafter.

(8) How will you communicate with a school bus full of mentally disabled students? Use your resources wisely. In this case, the adult aide on the bus was the only one who understood the students. What if the aide was injured? Prepare now. (Photo by author.)
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The major obstacle this incident presented was that the high school-aged students on the bus were mentally disabled to the point that we could not communicate with them to help us determine if they were injured. It was obvious that they were not seriously injured; but, after surveying the force of impact and the damage done to the bus, it was obvious that they were thrown around the bus. The uninjured bus aide was a valuable tool for us, since she could communicate with the disabled students somewhat.

(9) Damage such as this indicates that a major impact occurred. Most situations like this will result in injuries to bus occupants. (Photos by author.)
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Again, looking back on what went right, what went wrong, and what could have occurred, we found the following:

  • Luck was on the side of the bus occupants, because the force of the impact was severe.
  • Luck was on the side of the other westbound travelers, since the bus did not strike another vehicle.
  • The first-in engine company did a quick and thorough size-up and evaluation and communicated this information to command.
  • The aide had medical records for each student on the bus.
  • The school district responded appropriately in sending a representative (same person as in Incident 1), a backup bus, and not overreacting.
  • This incident shows that a school bus can take a severe hit and provide occupant protection.
  • As in Incident 1, if the bus had overturned or hit something else, we would have faced a much different challenge.
  • Overall, this was a “nonincident.” All we did was help the students off the bus and report their status to EMS.

(10) Is your fire department prepared for this? School bus incidents require that responders be trained in heavy rescue, mass-casualty incidents, and command and control. Only then will you have the knowledge to be successful when a school bus full of children strikes something large or rolls over on its side.
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