Child struck, killed by school bus
Five-year-old Noah Barnes died Tuesday after falling down in front of his school bus.
Branson — Grief hung like a veil over Branson's Cedar Ridge School on Wednesday as word spread about the death of a 5-year-old kindergarten student hit by a school bus.
About 3 p.m. Tuesday, Noah Barnes got off the bus in the Spring Meadows subdivision just east of Branson. According to the Missouri Highway Patrol, Noah fell down in front of the bus and was run over. The child was taken by ambulance to Skaggs Community Health Center and then airlifted to Cox South hospital in Springfield where he was pronounced dead at 4:45 p.m.
Noah's family declined to comment Wednesday.
Patrol investigators were at the school Wednesday, interviewing several children who were potential witnesses to the accident, said Superintendent Doug Hayter. The bus carried only elementary students.
Until the investigation is completed, bus driver Victor Fischer, 53, of Kirbyville is on paid leave and will undergo drug and alcohol testing, Hayter said. Fischer has been driving for the district since last December. He could not be reached for comment.
State regulations require pupils to cross at least 10 feet in front of the bus. The Missouri School Bus Operator's Permit Procedure Manual says: "The driver should not put the bus in motion until the last pupil off of the bus is at least 10 feet away from the bus."
Hayter said he knew of no complaints that had been received about Fischer. Such complaints would be investigated by the district's director of transportation and could ultimately be brought before the school board, Hayter said.
In the subdivision, neighbors said they have worried about the dozen or so children who ride the bus each day.
The unmarked bus stop is on a hill on a narrow county-maintained street that has no posted speed limit. The stop is about four blocks from Noah's home. Cars turning off Missouri 76 often "just fly through here," said Michael Flood who moved to the subdivision from Wilmington, Ill., about three months ago.
"It's a death trap," Flood said. "I knew something was going to happen someday, but I thought it would be a car hitting someone, not the bus."
Although his 5-year-old son, Cole, also rides the bus, Flood said he wasn't aware of the accident until Wednesday.
When the children get off the bus, "they wander all over the street," said Kelly Lamborn, who lives across the street from the bus stop. She's lived there since 1986, and her daughter Christine, now a junior at Branson High School, rode the bus until she recently got her driver's license.
"With little kids, there's no way to be too careful," said Lamborn's father, Jim Margrave.
Taney County Presiding Commissioner Chuck Pennel said commissioners would consider looking into conditions on Spring Meadows Parkway.
He said he doesn't remember complaints of speeders on that street.
"We do get complaints on different roads, and we have put up some signs and the sheriff also has patrolled some of those," Pennel said.
At Branson schools, teachers were alerted early Wednesday with counselors on hand to spend time with students, Hayter said. Counselors also were on the bus that carried Noah, he said.
The district has 268 kindergarten students. About 2,400 children — 70 percent of the school's enrollment — ride the buses.
Hayter said he doesn't remember any other such accident in the school district.
"The state has strict standards and training for drivers, and rules for conduct are posted on the buses," Hayter said. "Something like this creates heightened awareness, but I think we have everything in place for the safety of our students."By Kathryn Buckstaff
NOTE FROM: Arthur L. Yeager, DMD, MMH
Notice also that everyone is concerned with other vehicles when the danger was not from passing or speeding cars but from the school bus itself. This is manifest in legislation that ever increases the penalties for passing a stopped school bus but does not address the responsible bus drivers for their error and school districts for failing to properly educate, establish safer bus routes and loading and unloading areas, monitor and control the most vulnerable K-3 children on procedures for getting on and off the bus.