Minnesota girl still scared after near-miss with semi that illegally passed school bus
PAYNESVILLE, Minn. -- The 13-year-old western Minnesota girl nearly struck Friday morning by a semi truck that illegally passed her school bus says she's still scared and shaky days later.
PAYNESVILLE, Minn. -- The 13-year-old western Minnesota girl nearly struck Friday morning by a semi truck that illegally passed her school bus says she’s still scared and shaky days later.
Alexis Schwartz, who just finished the seventh grade at Paynesville Area Schools, said she stands far back from state Highway 23 for her bus pickup at the end of her family’s driveway near Hawick.
That awareness saved her on the last day of the school year, when a semi passed her school bus on the right, coming between Alexis and the bus as the bus door was opening for her. She said the incident happened in a “blink of an eye.”
Schwartz told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that she felt the wind and the dust when a semitrailer truck roared by on the right side of her school bus and missed her by what she figures was only an inch and a half.
"It just kept coming and didn’t stop, and it didn’t even stop when it passed me," she told the Star Tribune. "My heart was pounding awfully fast, and my hands were shaking, because I was so scared to have it come up that close."
The bus driver, Mike Egerman, said he had put out his stop arm, as he does for every stop. A vehicle had already stopped behind the bus and so did another coming toward the bus.
"And that semi just went cruising by, on the right side. It happened so fast, it was amazing," he told the Star Tribune. Egerman estimated the truck was going 45 to 50 miles per hour on a stretch of highway where it drops from four lanes at 65 mph to two lanes at 55 mph.
"I saw her take a step toward the bus, and that semi went flying through. I couldn’t believe it. The shoulder is gravel there, and as soon as that semi went by, I couldn’t see her. I thought she was under the semi. I thought she was dead. And all of the sudden, the dust cleared, and there she stood," he said.
The Minnesota State Patrol on Tuesday asked the public for help in identifying the semi and the driver, who didn’t stop after the incident. The plea for assistance included video footage from the bus cameras showing the bus stopping and then the semi and trailer zipping by on the right.
According to Lt. Eric Roeske, public information officer for the patrol, the driver contacted law enforcement Tuesday evening. Via Twitter, Roeske said Wednesday morning that the person’s name would not be released while the investigation is active.
Under Minnesota law, passing a school bus with a child outside the bus is a gross misdemeanor charge.
Alexis’ mom, Tracy Adams, said she asked the bus company to switch her daughter’s bus pickup last month, making Alexis the first child to be picked up instead of the last. The change moved Alexis’ pickup time to 7 a.m. and meant she didn’t have to walk across the traffic lanes to get onto the bus.
“I was afraid of her crossing the highway,” Adams said.
She also has asked the bus company to figure out a safer way to pick up her daughter for the coming school year and has asked the county highway department for bus stop signs to be posted.
The family’s residence is north of Hawick, and just 1½ miles from a new four-lane bypass around Paynesville. Adams said drivers are either going fast because they had the opportunity to speed up to 65 mph on the bypass or are anticipating speeding up, if they are about to get to the bypass.
Adams also wants other parents to be aware of bus stop safety and teach their children to be aware of their surroundings, which is what saved her daughter.
“Anything can happen in the blink of an eye,” Adams said. “She saved herself by paying attention.”
The Minneapolis Star Tribune contributed to this report.