By Mark Barnes
Last Thursday, December 5, bus #11 was running late. Kuna school bus driver Debra Boatright was making the morning children pickups on its way to Crimson Point Elementary School. It was a cold morning, but the winter storm that blew through the area later in the week still had not arrived yet, so the roads were clear.
It is unclear the exact details, but a few minutes before 8 a.m., the school bus was eastbound on Deer Flat Road crossing Happy Valley Road. Northbound approaching the intersection was a 1974 Mack dump truck driven by Charles Samuel Derby, who despite attempts to slow his vehicle, hit the right rear of the bus, t-boning and spinning it on the road. Deer Flat Road has a stop sign. Happy Valley Road does not.
The front of the dump truck was destroyed on impact. The school bus suffered major damage as well but the compartmentalized nature and design kept the body of the bus relatively intact. Once allowed to see the bus, members of the press on scene commented that they thought there would have been more damage to the bus.
Immediately after the accident Derby got out of his dump truck, ran to and boarded the bus to try and help any of the 12 children riding that morning. A nurse that had seen debris flying in her rearview mirror pulled over and ran back to the scene. On the bus were several children injured, one severely. She performed CPR on Daniel Cook but he died at the scene. Four other children were taken to area hospitals.
Two of the children were taken to Saint Alphonsus in Boise, two others to Nampa along with the bus driver who was physically uninjured but emotionally distraught. Two of the four injured children were treated and released on Thursday. According to Idaho State Police public information officer Teresa Baker, as of Tuesday, only one child remains at the hospital.
Initially it was reported that nine or 10 children were on the bus, but it was confirmed that there were actually 12 that morning. Two children were apparently picked up by their mother at the scene before emergency vehicles arrived. It was reported that she took them to the hospital where they were checked and released.
Although the school bus was headed to Kuna in Ada County, the accident occurred in Canyon County as the Kuna School District crosses county lines. Initial reports had many Nampa parents worried that it was a Nampa school bus involved and a Nampa school district official was dispatched to the scene to get official information to report in order to calm Nampa parent’s fears. Nampa emergency services responded to the accident quickly including police, fire trucks and ambulances.
The Idaho State Police arrived and is now heading up the investigation as to what happened and who was at fault. It may take several weeks for the results of the investigation to be released. Criminal charges are expected ISP has said due to the fatality.
In times of crisis the soul of a community comes out. People pull together to offer aid and comfort to those who have suffered the most. Kuna is especially strong with this trait. Melanie DeLashmutt from Kuna School District said that they had tons of food dropped by their offices on Friday and that it went back out to the kids who needed it, at the schools that were grieving.
Volunteer counselors from surrounding school districts showed up to help counsel students and offer their support. Kuna School District employees travelled on the busses with students after school and on Friday morning to show support and answer any questions that the students or who rode busses had.
There have been memorial prayer services at local churches. An impromptu memorial at the crash scene has stuffed animals, messages from friends, a fishing pole, a small Christmas tree and a Kuna Kavemen hat.
Messages on Facebook and reports in the media from family and friends say the Daniel was a happy kid, a great wrestler and will be missed incredibly.
“We’re amazed at how much we’re hearing from people across the nation,” Melanie DeLashmutt said. “The community comes together in these times of crises and supports everyone.”
On Monday and Tuesday service dogs visited Crimson Point elementary (see article on page 3.)
For those who wish to help,
the Kuna School District has said that donations in the form of gift cards can be dropped off at the school district offices. Donors can specify which families the donations are for, the family of Daniel Cook or any of the families with injured children.