May 12 was a traumatizing day for a family in Buxton, Maine, when an accident nearly claimed the life of a 6-year-old boy.
Mom Athena Lavigne was waiting for her son, 6, and her niece, also 6, to get off the school bus. She was waiting along Dunnell Road and watched as the bus stopped, her niece got off and then her son stepped off.
Then she watched in horror as her son’s backpack got tangled in the door as it closed and the driver took off, dragging him along.
“My son tried to get off,” Lavigne told WGME-TV. “And he immediately started to drive off … I was waiting for his little body to go underneath the bus. I didn’t think the driver was going to stop.
‘I didn’t think the driver was going to stop’: 6-year-old boy dragged by bus in Buxton https://t.co/G8L2vAdNA1
— Brad Rogers WGME (@BradWGME) May 16, 2022
“Then the bus immediately started to drive away. I saw my … son’s feet underneath the bus being dragged and I heard him scream.
“I thought my son was going to get dragged up under the bus and I was going to watch him die,” she told WMTW.
Lavigne took off after the vehicle, desperately trying to get the driver’s attention.
“And I ran after the school bus,” she recalled. “And I was screaming for him to stop. I was screaming at the top of my lungs. I just wanted him to stop. I didn’t think he was going to stop. I thought he was just going to keep driving. It felt like forever. It was terrifying.”
Finally, the driver stopped. The boy — who had been wearing shorts and sneakers — was all scraped up along the side of his body and was taken to the hospital.
Thankfully, though, the backpack was strong enough to bear his weight and did not break during the ordeal, which Lavigne thinks saved her son’s life.
“He’s got road rash down the side of his left leg,” Lavigne said. “He’s been a real trooper throughout the whole thing. He’s really scared. Doesn’t want to ride the school bus anymore.”
Police estimated that the boy had been dragged a total of 575 feet, and the school transportation director admitted that the driver had not followed the strict exiting procedure.
“Loading and unloading is the most critical time of a bus driver’s job,” the director said. “You have to be 100% focused during that time. Obviously, mistakes happened.”
Protocol is for students to walk to a designated spot after exiting the bus and wait for the driver’s go-ahead to continue, which did not happen in this case. The bus driver is then supposed to wait for the students to finish crossing the street before closing the doors and driving away.
The 63-year-old driver, described as “relatively new,” has been placed on administrative leave. Both police and the school district are looking into the incident.
“I don’t understand how this happened,” Lavigne said. “I’m just so glad he’s OK.”