Wednesday, April 17

Bus driver fired after stopping bus full of students on train tracks as freight train approaches

A bus driver at a private school in Fort Pierce has been fired after several parents said he stopped a bus full of students on the train tracks as a freight train was approaching.

Synergy Magnet K-12 school said the bus driver, who hasn’t been named, was let go after a 48-hour internal investigation.

The incident was reported to the school Monday.

“It was rough,” ninth-grader Madison Cory said.

Cory told WPTV’s Kate Hussey what happened as another freight train passed by the school, reminding the student of the scary moments on her bus.

“It brings back memories,” Cory said. “That could have been me. That got hit by that (train).”

Cory said Monday morning around 8:20 a.m., her bus driver dropped off the younger kids at Synergy Magnet’s K-12 campus and was heading to the older students’ campus off U.S. 1 when the bus driver suddenly stopped on the tracks at the crossing on Edward Road.

Surveillance footage released by the district shows the students riding the bus shortly before coming to the intersection. At 8:20 a.m., the bus stops briefly, then starts crossing the tracks. At the same time, the sound of the crossing arms can be heard coming down.

Shortly afterward, in the video the bus abruptly stops, and the crossing arm hits the top of the bus. Students start screaming for the bus driver to move.

The bus driver yells at the students to be quiet, and then continues driving the bus off the tracks. The bus was stopped for a total of 20 seconds.

“We kept saying there was a train and we need to move,” Cory said. “At that point a lot of us were expecting to die.”

Cory said she called her parents, who then reached out to the school to report what happened.

According to screenshots given to WPTV by her parents, the school replied via text, “We will notify transportation immediately to do an investigation.”

Shortly afterward, screenshots show the school notified Cory’s parents that the bus driver had been fired.

On Wednesday, parent Samantha Hansen said all parents received a message informing them of the incident and that the bus driver was no longer working for the school.

“I am so horrified, by not only what happened on those train tracks, but by the school for not contacting the parents to let us know what happened to our children that morning. It sickens me to know that my child could have died that day, and that the school does not seem to be taking this as seriously as I feel they should,” Hansen said.

Cory’s parents filed a report with the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Education.

Her father, Paul Runber, told WPTV on Wednesday they met with a detective. They also withdrew Cory from the school.

Cory and Hansen told Hussey its not the first time they’ve experienced issues with that bus driver.

“He did let us off the bus a lot. He broke a lot of rules,” Cory said. “He would stop at Wendys or gas stations if we had to go to the bathroom and would let us off the bus. “And had two middle schoolers get off the bus to get him a soda from a gas station.”

WPTV reached out to Synergy Magnet, who told Hussey they had no idea the bus driver ever made additional stops, and said if it was reported to them earlier, he would have been fired before this incident.

They also said they checked multiple references before hiring the driver, and said he had a clean driving record. The school also doesn’t believe the incident Monday was intentional.

The school released this official statement to WPTV, reading in full:

<i>”Regarding the bus incident that happened Monday, April 1, 2024, at 8:20 am, please be advised that prior to commenting on the incident, we had to conclude our 48-hour internal investigation. As a result of the investigation, we have concluded that the portrayal of the incident was exaggerated over social media platforms. We have informed the parents that their children were kept from harm and that the driver did what was necessary to keep them safe. We recognize that this may have been a traumatic experience for the students and family, and we have made the appropriate arrangements to accommodate their needs. We have released video footage in order to be transparent to the families and media as our only priority is the safety of our students and our institution. We apologize for the inconvenience that this may have caused and we are thankful to God for watching over the children through this experience.”</i>

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