Published Friday, May 5, 2017 | 10:24 a.m.
Updated Friday, May 5, 2017 | 3:10 p.m.
The driver of a Clark County School District bus that rolled over Thursday while full of students had been in a previous driving accident during 14 years of employment with the district and was not a full-time driver of the route heading to Bailey Middle School.
Transportation officials said the driver — one of 15 passengers hospitalized after a 70-year-old woman driving a Ford Taurus ran through a red light at the intersection of Carey Avenue and Nellis Boulevard and crashed into the bus — was reported in an accident about seven years ago. She was also an “extra board senior driver,” a title given to CCSD drivers with over five years of experience in the district that can be plugged into any of the district’s nearly 1,600 daily routes to fill in for other drivers.
“The first words out of the driver’s mouth when she called for help were ‘my kids,’” said Shannon Evans, the CCSD Transportation Director. “She cared for the students and loved them like her own.”
Evans said more than 400 accidents involving CCSD buses have taken place since July 1 of last year. An accident happens any time a bus makes contact with another object, including items as small as a construction cone.
CCSD Police Capt. Ken Young declined comment when asked for details about the driver’s previous accident seven years ago.
Thursday’s crash was the first rollover bus incident both Evans and Young said they recalled seeing in more than two decades each of working in the district.
Officials made light of Thursday’s incident to showcase safety protocols for its drivers, inviting media to its transportation headquarters today for a briefing and tour of one of its school buses. Several district employees aboard the bus demonstrated the how to use its various emergency exits and said students that ride the bus are trained for situations like yesterday’s rollover.
“This is the safest possible transportation vehicle anywhere,” Evans said.
Drivers undergo training nearly four times longer than state minimum requirements and double federal average training time before being placed on a route in the district.
Evans said a 14-day bus driver training program, which includes 35 hours behind the wheel and 40 hours of classroom training, helps the district find the drivers best fit in Southern Nevada to transport students.
Nevada law requires only requires 10 hours of behind-the-wheel training and 10 hours in the classroom, while federal averages stand at about 20 hours for each.
“If this isn’t someone we’d want busing our own children, they won’t be busing for anyone in the district,” Evans said.
Evans said only about 60 percent of applicants that begin the class pass and become drivers. CCSD currently has 51 school bus driver vacancies.
School officials praised local authorities, the students and bus driver for their “phenomenal” actions during the incident, and thanked local business Lowe’s for their support of those gathered at the corner of Nellis and Carey after the crash. Superintendent Pat Skorkowsky also expressed condolences to the families of those affected by the death of the sedan driver and critically injured passenger.
“Yesterday was a very difficult day for the district,” Skorkowsky said. “The community really stepped up to assist.”