“A bit of relief” is how Landon Brackett described finding two non-seriously injured occupants inside an overturned school bus off Highway 101 near Madeira Park on the morning of May 24.
The owner of Peerless Tree Service was driving to a job and as one of the first vehicles at the accident scene, he called to father and fellow crew member Tim to call 9-1-1. Brackett said he and employee Torvan Bjerkabro were out of their vehicle in seconds and “ran for the back escape route door of the bus, terrified about what we might find in there.”
“A pretty scary situation but a lot better than what we expected, which is kinda the worst when you see a school bus upside down,” he told Coast Reporter in a May 25 interview. “We got the door open, and fortunately there was just one little girl passenger in there, being as brave as she could be in the situation.”
He reported he saw the child near the female bus driver, who was “hanging upside down from her seatbelt." He said the youngster came towards them, told them she was fine and was assisted out the back door of the bus and up the ditch slope to the road shoulder by others on scene. She left without her shoes, but those were located in the bus and returned to her.
Brackett said he called out to others on scene for something to use to cut the driver’s seat belt. A resident of a nearby property retrieved a knife, and with the help of that individual and Bjerkabro, the belt was cut and the driver’s body supported as her rescuers laid her down on the bus roof. Brackett commented that he was amazed by how calm she remained through that procedure.
Bjerkabro said, “The bus engine was still running, with oil pouring out of the engine bay. Landon shut it off using the emergency shut off button which triggered the warning systems."
“Horns honking, alarms going off, all a bit of a shock,” Brackett stated about that part of the experience.
“It seemed like right away after that I saw a paramedic there,” he said.
The driver was removed from the bus, was able to get to her feet with assistance and was transported from the scene by ambulance.
The Peerless crew said they were able to resume their journey about 30 minutes after first arriving. Bjerkabro said the local fire department "did a beautiful job" of managing the scene. He and Brackett both praised the work of all the first responders in attendance.
The two said the experience has made them think seriously about seeking higher levels of first aid training, in case they encounter a similar situation again. “We are always pretty safety conscious people, doing tree work for a living, safety has to be your number one priority,” Brackett said.