Randy Mitchell City Editor
The Ada News
The parents of a 5-year-old boy who fell from a school bus Thursday are outraged and planning a lawsuit.
The incident happened on a curve of a paved county road near the school after students were let out for the day, according to Oklahoma Highway Patrol Trooper James McKee. Authorities said Trenton Barger somehow fell through the bus’s front doors as it rounded the curve.
McKee said when the child fell against the doors, they opened allowing him to fall through. He said through his investigation there was a mechanical failure detected in the doors latching system.
There are conflicting stories on where the child was sitting, but the child’s parents believe he was sitting on the steps of the bus. McKee said he cannot confirm the boy was sitting on the steps.
“He was not sitting in the seat,” McKee said. “A far as the steps, the information I have is no, but he was sitting by the driver. As far as I know, he was not sitting on the steps.”
McKee did say the boy was next to the driver as a disciplinary measure.
The boy’s mother, Teri Powers, said she is angry school officials didn’t call 911.
“I am very (upset),” she said. “It should have been done.”
Vanoss Schools Superintendent Janet Blocker said school officials determined he had suffered no life threatening injuries and took Barger back to the school where they attempted to reach Barger’s parents.
“You call 911 when you feel like there are serious or life-threatening injuries,” Blocker said. “The child immediately jumped up and was running to the bus. As a precaution, the bus driver called (school) officials, we came immediately. If we felt at that time that emergency response was necessary, we would have absolutely done that.”
According to Powers, she rushed her son to Valley View Regional Hospital after school officials drove him home. She said hospital personnel performed a CAT scan and X-rays were taken and other tests.
“Everything came back fine,” Powers said.
The parents notified Pontotoc County sheriff’s deputies who documented Barger suffered cuts and abrasions to his hand, back (road rash) and head.
School officials didn’t believe Barger’s injuries were serious.
“He was carrying on a conversation, telling about his day,” Blocker said. “He never lost consciousness. We never had to apply any pressure to stop blood flow.”
As for whether or not the child was sitting where he wasn’t supposed to, Blocker said she doesn’t know pending the outcome of the investigation.
“That is currently being investigated, but I can tell you that all our drivers are educated on appropriate procedures to follow to ensure student safety,” Blocker said. “This is a veteran driver who is a certified employee and he’s had no prior incidents. Not only do (drivers) get training at the beginning of driving a bus, but they have four hours of continuing education each year.”
Powers said she has seen her son, and other children, sitting on the steps of the bus before as a disciplinary measure. Blocker said students are supposed to sit in their assigned seats on their designated bus and if the child was sitting somewhere else, it’s not normal protocol.
“That is not a normal procedure for a bus driver,” She said. “All of our drivers are educated that students are to be in their seats when the bus is en route, when the bus is moving.”
Blocker said she feels school officials did the right thing.
“We feel confident in the decisions that we made at the time to ensure the safety of not only this boy, but all of our students that were on the bus,” Blocker said. “Our driver acted very quickly and appropriately.”
“We went to a lawyer today and we’re going to try to sue,” Powers told The Ada News Friday.
As for Barger, he spent Friday at home resting.
“He’s doing fine,” Powers said.
Several people called The Ada News and voiced outrage at what happened and how it was handled. Most wanted to remain anonymous, but one father who said his son was riding the bus right behind the one where Barger fell and saw him tumble out the doors, went on record.
“It boils my blood,” Randall Brown said. “If I’m supposed to trust these people with my children, how does it ring with me right now? I trust that the person driving the bus is going to be responsible for my child from home to school, at school and from school to home.”
According to a report, Blocker has pulled the bus from the route and temporarily replaced the driver, Gary Johnson. Authorities are unsure of how fast the bus was traveling when Barger fell out, but the suggested speed limit around the curve is 35 miles-per-hour.
As for what is required by law when a person is injured in this way, Ronnie Hampton, troop commander of Oklahoma Highway Patrol Troop F, said when there is an incident where someone receives any type of injury involving a vehicle, or there is property damage, it must be reported. If a person falls from a moving vehicle, it is considered a vehicle wreck, he said.
“What someone is required to do is notify the highway patrol, or the local police agency,” Hampton said. “At that point, it would trigger a emergency response for care and investigation. You would want to stay at the scene until law enforcement and first responders arrive so we can conduct our investigation.”