National Coalition For School Bus Safety
National Coalition For School Bus Safety


Some Students Leery of Getting Back on Bus After Lakewood Crash
September 22, 2006

LAKE ODESSA - A week ago today, 15-year-old Mike Norton took a vicious tumble in a Lakewood school bus.

A car on Bliss Road drove through a stop sign and slammed into the school vehicle carrying 49 kids, including Mike, on M-50.

The bus spun 180 degrees. Then it tipped over, injuring its driver, the driver of the other vehicle and 15 students.

Mike's injuries were the most severe. His collarbone shattered, several ribs cracked and a lung was bruised.

"I just remember the car hit the bus, then the wheels squealing on the pavement, then the bus laying on the ground," said Mike, recovering at home.

His parents, Richard and Dawn Norton, have their own vivid memories.

Mike, who remains a jokester even on pain medication, apparently told them at the hospital, "I don't have to ride the bus anymore. I get my license on Halloween," because of his birthday.

Now, his plans to drive himself to school, along with hunting deer this fall, are on hold for his recovery.

And Mike isn't the only one avoiding the bus since last Friday's rollover.

All of the injured, excluding Mike, have returned to class.

Yet, only 38 to 41 kids along the route encompassing the collision site have taken the bus to school this week, indicating a drop of up to 22 percent for Monday through Thursday.

As it is, Lakewood Public Schools' transportation supervisor Greg Tobias said that at least one student is now hampered by crutches when getting on the bus. Several are wearing slings.

"Probably the other ones have just decided they don't want to ride the bus for a while," said Tobias, who has been picking up the students and delivering them to school. "Some of them may not be able to get in a bus yet."

A case of nerves?

Lakewood students are acknowledging their jitters.

Last Sunday, about 30 youngsters attended a Sunday crisis meeting here.

They were assured that bus driver Amy Lozo was OK. And they took a bus ride.

Also, Lakewood social worker Lisa Krikke rode the bus with the students Monday morning. To her experienced eye, only one kindergartner seemed upset.

"She got on and said that she missed her mom and that she wanted to sit with me," Krikke said.

She advises parents to keep television-watching to a minimum. It's not healthy, she said, for children to see footage of the bus lying on its side.

"Parents need to remind them that they're safe," Krikke said. "It was a traumatic experience."

Past week

Norton understands his son's reluctance to get back on a school bus.

He'll do whatever he can, though, to convince his son that the crash was just a freak situation.

"They should all get back on the bus," he said.

Deb Lindquist's sixth-grade daughter, Maria, called on a cell phone to tell her that the crash occurred.

When Lindquist next saw the 11-year-old girl, she had a bruise on her hip. Her glasses were smashed.

"She was lucky," the mom said. "I ended up bringing her to school because I thought it would be good for her to be with her friends instead of being at home, thinking about it. She rode a bus home that day.

"It was one of those freak accidents. I wouldn't want it to happen again. But I'm glad it turned out the way that it did."

Indelible memory

Children, parents and school officials alike say they will never forget last Friday, when the district's radios hummed with news of a crash along M-50.

Lakewood High School's Interim Principal Brian Williams didn't know it was a bus transporting several of his students when he walked out to M-50 to see if the crash was in sight.

There was nothing. Just traffic. When he walked back inside, he learned it was a Lakewood school bus that was involved.

His heartbeat rushed when he arrived at the scene.

The bus was on its side.

Two students were lying on the ground.

Now, the kids are taking care of their doctors' appointments, replacing their eyeglass prescriptions and, for the most part, getting back to normal.

"It never ceases to amaze me how kids sometimes respond to a crisis better than adults do," Williams said.

By Susan Vela
Lansing State Journal

NOTE: Secondary to injuries after a bus rollover accident where there are no seat belts and children are thrown violently out of their seats is emotional trauma.The emotional often outlasts the physical in time to heal.

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