BAY ST. LOUIS, MS (WLOX) - It is a parent's biggest fear: something happening to their child. That nightmare became a reality for one Bay St. Louis mother who got a call Friday that her children had been in a school bus accident, and one of her children needed to go to the hospital.
"She pulled out so fast that she hit the bus," 6-year-old Lukas Bennett said, recalling the accident. "The bus got damaged the engine started smoking."
Luckily, he only suffered a bump on his head. But his 8-year-old sister, Annabella, was taken to the hospital.
"As a parent, that's terrifying to get a phone call your kids have been hit on a bus," Tracey Bennett said. "The bus doesn't have seat belts and you don't know how bad it is because you are not there."
Tracey Bennett said Annabella bruised her ribs and her hip. She's in a lot of pain and was told by doctors to take it easy. Physically both children will heal, but it has also affected them mentally. Lukas said he is terrified to get back on a bus.
"I kept hiding everywhere," Lukas Bennett said, "because I thought another one was going to happen."
"I'm lucky both my kids were okay and all the other kids on the bus were okay," Tracey Bennett said.
The accident happened on Highway 603, less than a mile from the Bennett's home. Bennett said a SUV ran into the side of the school bus. Less than two months earlier, there was another accident involving a school bus on Highway 603 in Hancock County and another child was taken to the hospital. School district officials said that child only suffered minor injuries as well. But Bennett said the accident her children were in could have been a lot worse, if it were not for the bus driver.
"She did such a good job of controlling that, the way that it was hit that bus should have flipped and Casey stopped that bus from flipping and saved these kids' lives," Bennett said.
Bennett and school officials hope this close call will get drivers to pay better attention.
"People need to slow down," Bennett said, "take their time, and pay attention. Stay off the phones, turn the music down and watch."
"School buses are in and around your communities every day, a couple times a day," Bay-Waveland School District Director of Operations Bradley Barlow said. "So know that and know that there are many very important children on those buses. Always rule on the side of caution. Don't try to pass that school bus at the last minute, just pay attention to the signs."
According to school officials, both school bus accidents in Hancock County were caused by the other driver.
- If your children ride the school bus, walk with them to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive and wait with them until they get on the school bus.
- When the bus approaches, stand at least six feet away and wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says that it's okay before stepping onto the bus.
- If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least ten feet in front of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you and you can see the bus driver.
- Use the handrails to avoid falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps don't get caught in the handrails or doors.
- Never walk behind the bus. If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Don't try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.
- Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state. Learn the "flashing signal light system" that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions: Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
- Be mindful of pedestrians crossing at intersections or crosswalks and slowdown in school zones and residential areas, especially for children playing and gathering near bus stops.
- Never overtake a school bus, unless you are traveling on a highway or interstate with multiple lanes.
- Don't be a distracted driver; you endanger your own life and the lives of others. Your call, text or email can wait.