A Red Deer man is being hailed a hero after intercepting a school bus carrying 18 children which struck a tree and street sign on Monday afternoon.
The driver of the bus, Shelly Joy Kolodychuk, 42, of Red Deer, has been charged with impaired operation of a motor vehicle, operating a motor vehicle over 80mg, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and failing to remain at the scene of a collision.
Kurt Stenberg was just returning to his home with his daughter in Vanier Woods when he was startled by the sound of a loud crash.
The bus, which was contracted to the Red Deer Public School District by Prairie Bus Lines, was carrying the children, aged five to 12-years-old, from École Barrie Wilson School at 4 p.m. on Monday when the collision happened. No children were injured as a result.
“I looked and a school bus had drove up onto the sidewalk and had ran over a tree and a street sign,” he said. “It continued to keep driving. I went in the middle of the street to try to get the bus to pull over.”
He said the bus driver appeared to consider pulling over at this point by slowing down, but to Stenberg’s surprise she sped up and turned left.
“I jumped into my vehicle, pulled a (U-turn) and chased after the school bus,” he said. “I saw the school bus pulled over here in Valley Green Close.”
Stenberg pulled up beside the bus and made eye contact with the female driver who seemed, “Confused,” he added.
“I saw a slight bit of damage on the front of the vehicle and the kids seemed kind of spooked in the window. I pulled in front of the bus with my truck so she couldn’t drive off. I asked her to open the doors – there was a lot more confusion with the bus driver. I stepped in and turned the bus off, put the brakes on and put it in park.”
Stenberg remained on the scene and his wife, who was also nearby, came to help with the children on board.
“I called 9-1-1 immediately, while this was all going on. I tried to manage the driver and a parent who was at this corner to pick up her child called the school board to let all of the parents know their kids were going to be late.”
Fire, ambulance and police arrived on the scene and the female driver of the bus was assessed in the ambulance before being put into the RCMP vehicle for further assessment. She was eventually taken away by police.
Scott Hucal, regional director of Northern Alberta and Saskatchewan with Prairie Bus Lines, said Kolodychuk has been suspended with subject to termination. He added Kolodychuk was also a trainer for Prairie Bus Lines.
“We are deeply concerned and shocked by this incident. Adults who serve our students carry a significant responsibility for their safety and care,” said Stu Henry, superintendent of schools.
The District will continue to monitor the situation and take every precaution to assure parents and students that this is an unfortunate and isolated incident, officials said, adding Kolodychuk was involved as a regular driver for students from Mattie McCullough Elementary.
A statement from Prairie Bus Lines read, “As a result of the investigation and subsequent charges against the driver by the RCMP, we have taken the appropriate action to ensure our Safely Home commitment is upheld. Prairie Bus Lines has a zero tolerance drug and alcohol policy in place. This includes a process for testing when there is reasonable suspicion that an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In this case, there were no visible signs of impairment prior to the driver’s afternoon departure.”
Meanwhile, Kolodychuk is scheduled to appear in court in Red Deer on July 12th.