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'We’re lucky to have him still here:' P.E.I. father slams schools branch after son hit while getting off bus

File photo of an Alberta school bus.
File photo of school bus. - Brendan Miller

School bus driver suspended indefinitely after failing to activate stop lights

FORT AUGUSTUS, P.E.I. —

A school bus driver has been suspended indefinitely after a six-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle when he left the bus.

An investigation determined the 67-year-old driver was at fault in the incident for failing to activate his red flashing lights, says Dave Gillis of the Public Schools Branch, adding he was unable to say if, or when, the driver may return to the job.

The boy was struck by a vehicle on Jan. 10 after he got off his bus near the Fort Augustus Community Centre.

The RCMP investigation revealed the bus did not have its flashing red lights on at the time of the collision.

The man, who has driven a school bus for decades, was issued a ticket under the Highway Traffic Act for failing to operate the flashing red lights on the bus. The infraction carries a fine of $100.

Matt MacGrath is critical of the Public Schools Branch’s handling of the incident, which has left his son, Levi, with sore hips and still feeling rattled by the ordeal.

“We’re lucky to have him still here, really,’’ says MacGrath.

“We’re pretty thankful…This could have been a lot worse.’’

MacGrath actually lauds the driver for admitting right away to being at fault.

“I don’t want the driver torn apart here,’’ he says.

“We’re just upset. We felt it was not dealt with in the matter that it should have been.’’
-Matt MacGrath

MacGrath’s concerns centre on how the Public Schools Branch responded to the incident.

He feels the bus driver should not have been allowed to drive again until the Public Schools Branch completed its investigation. Yet, he says the driver was back behind the wheel of a school bus on Jan. 13.

“The driver was not removed right away,’’ he says.

“He picked up kids for school (the following school day), like it was a regular day.’’

Gillis believes the driver may have operated a school bus the morning of Monday, Jan. 13, before being interviewed by the Public Schools Branch about the incident.

MacGrath says he and his wife, Melanie, feel the incident was downplayed by the Public Schools Branch.

“We’re just upset,’’ he says.

“We felt it was not dealt with in the matter that it should have been.’’

Dave Gillis and Catherine MacKinnon with the Public Schools Branch make a presentation to the standing committee on Infrastructure and energy on vehicles illegally passing school buses in this 2018 photo. -SaltWire file photo
Dave Gillis and Catherine MacKinnon with the Public Schools Branch make a presentation to the standing committee on Infrastructure and energy on vehicles illegally passing school buses in this 2018 photo. -SaltWire file photo

 

'Very serious'

Gillis says the branch considers the incident “very serious’’, adding a full assessment is always conducted in such situations.

He also says the Public Schools Branch has “a lot of faith and trust in our drivers".

MacGrath says Levi was uncomfortable getting back on the school bus the first couple times following the incident. Levi has also met with a school counsellor.

Naturally, MacGrath hopes the incident does not have a long-term impact on his son. He also hopes lessons will be learned.

“We don’t want this to happen again to our kid or to anybody else’s,’’ he says.


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