An apparent accident while backing out of a driveway caused a Riverside Community School District bus to catch fire, killing the driver and one student, on the morning of Dec. 12.
Bus driver Donnie Hendricks, 74, of Carson, Iowa, was backing out of 16-year-old Megan Klindt’s driveway when the bus apparently slipped off the road and into a ditch. The bus burst into flames. Neither Hendrick nor Klindt could escape.
Someone from the Klindt residence called 911 shortly after 7 a.m. according to Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Lt. Rob Ambrose. Oakland, Carson, and Macedonia firefighters responded to the conflagration at 17840 480th St. but were not able to rescue the trapped occupants.
The bodies were not recovered until after the fire was almost fully extinguished, said Pottawattamie County Chief Deputy Sheriff John Reynolds.
Timothy Mitchell, the superintendent of the Riverside district, canceled all after-school activities for the day.
He posted a statement on Facebook, which read in part, “Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones. The investigation into the cause of the accident is underway, and we are cooperating with law enforcement as they do their work. The safety of students and staff is the top priority for the District.”
Classes were not canceled but grief counselors from the Green Hills Area Education Agency visited the school to meet with students, according to Agency Administrator Lane Plugge.
Donnie Hendricks had been driving school buses in Riverside school district, which serves Oakland, Carson and Macedonia, Iowa, for many years. Residents remembered him from their school days.
— OWH Cops Reporters (@OWHCrime) December 12, 2017
Garret Loring, 23, of Oakland, who works at the Buck Snort restaurant in town, told the Omaha World-Herald he knew Hendricks.
“He’s been a driver for a long, long time,” Loring said.
Brittnee Chase, 19, of Oakland, who works at the Barn & Grill in Carson, said Hendricks was her bus driver when she was in school.
“He was a good guy,” she told the World-Herald. “He was amazing.”
Hendricks sometimes dropped in at the Dairy Queen where Chase also worked. “It was always nice to see him come by,” she said.
The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, the Iowa Department of Transportation, and the Iowa state fire marshal are all investigating, but so far, there has been no official determination of why the accident or the fire happened.
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