AKRON, Ind. (WNDU) - NewsCenter 16 continues to share safety solutions for thousands of school children who take the bus to and from school every day. It’s part of Tricia Sloma’s special reports, Never Again: Preventing bus stop tragedies.
Three children died and one was seriously injured at a bus stop in the Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation last fall. It was a terrible incident that shook the community.
Woodlawn Hospital in Rochester was prepared to handle the nearby emergency, but ultimately, their services were not needed. Woodlawn CEO John Alley remembers the helpless feeling that day. Since then, he’s found a way to make a difference.
“This is just a small token, but it's the right thing to do,” Alley said.
Woodlawn is putting money toward a special mission: stop arm cameras for school districts in their area.
“As a small hospital, we don't have a lot of resources,” Alley said. “When I talked to the board about it, I said, here's what I want to do, and they said, ‘Well, we hadn't thought of that, but just do it.'”
Woodlawn first donated $10,000 to Rochester Community Schools. Next, they gave the same amount to Caston School Corporation and, finally, Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation.
“With that donation, we're going to be able to do that on most of all of our routes,” Tippecanoe Valley School Board President Adam Heckaman said.
Heckaman says the cameras will be a wake-up call for drivers.
“Slow down and be aware of the buses,” Heckaman said. “I think it's one of those things that, as those tickets start getting issued, people start to think twice about running a bus arm.”
Shortly after the tragedy, Tippecanoe Valley put some stop arm cameras on their buses. They're now up to five buses with the technology out of a fleet of 40 with 28 routes. School leaders hope the cameras will add to safety and accountability.
“These cameras are there if someone disobeys the law, we're going to be able to catch them and sheriffs will be able to do their duty and take care of it,” Heckaman said.
As for routes, the district's transportation safety committee, formed after the accident, continues to look for ways to keep children safe.
“It's a committee that's always going to always be there,” Heckaman said. “Always working. Looking at the routes, yearly.”
It’s a commitment, Heckaman says, that's necessary to heal from such a tragedy.
“Tippy Valley is a very strong community. I believe that. I'm from this school, I’m from this community,” Heckaman said. “But this is a wound that's not going to heal real easily.”
Alley says that’s why community support is needed now.
“It's not just healing people,” Alley said. “It's prevention.”
“This effort that we're putting forth in our area here needs to be a tidal wave across the state. Every school corporation needs to get on board. This is a must-do,” Alley explained. “If you're not thinking about it, think about it. Get your local businesses involved. They need to support this. We need to support our kids.”
Among the other local businesses that have contributed to the stop arm camera fund is Pike Lumber of Akron.
NewsCenter 16 has contacted every public school district in our viewing area to see if their school buses have stop arm cameras. You can see the results of our survey by clicking here.
Tricia Sloma has been following the progression of legislation and other action taken by members of the community to help improve school bus and bus stop safety since the tragic crash in late October.
You can read and view previous installments of her Never Again series here:
- Never Again: Preventing bus stop tragedies
- North Liberty mom records bus stop violators in front of her house
- Alivia Stahl's dad: In his own words
- Never Again: Parents of children killed at bus stop lobby for legislation
- Never Again: Using legislation to prevent bus stop tragedies
- Rochester Community Schools gets hefty bus stop arm camera donation
- Never Again: Rochester school buses to be equipped with stop arm cameras
- Never Again: The dangers bus drivers deal with on the road - Part 1
- Never Again: School bus drivers debate road dangers - Part 2
- Never Again: Fathers of bus stop victims speak as legislation advances to IN Senate