Shoe hits bus, driver saves student

Bell TJ

LaFayette Bell was recognized recently by the Lake Forest School Board for coming to the aid of a student injured in a collision with a car.

HARRINGTON — Retired Marine Sgt. LaFayette Bell Sr. is a recording artist and a seasoned bus driver. He’s also the person who was at the right place at the right time as he tells the story.

On Wednesday Oct. 29, Mr. Bell was beginning his afternoon bus route from W.T. Chipman Middle School in Harrington when something hit his bus unexpectedly, a shoe.

“I’ve never seen nothing like this as a bus driver,” he said. “I’ve had people run into the front of my bus. I’ve had people run into the back of my bus. But it was like he was just dropped out of the sky.”

A middle school student, whose name was not released, had been hit by a pickup truck after trying to run across the road.

“Any closer and he would have been launched on top of my hood,” Mr. Bell said.

The bus had just stopped at the railroad tracks in town. As he looked around to ensure he could safely go, he said he watched the accident take place and knock the now limp student into the air, landing right in front of the bus.

“It knocked his shoes clean off. Honestly, if I wasn’t paying attention or had to correct students, I’d have run him over he was so close,” he added.

He told his students, “You’ve got to hold up, I got to check this out real quick.”

Mr. Bell said he tried to call 911 while he checked on the student who now wasn’t responding and was visibly hurt from the accident. The truck driver remained at the accident.

“He just kept saying ‘I didn’t mean to hit him. I didn’t mean to hit him.’ He kept shaking his head. He was petrified,” Mr. Bell said.

The rest went by in a slow blur, he said, between taking care of the kids on his bus, the student in trouble, and passersby hoping to help in some way.

“I had to keep a bus full of children calmed down and keep people off of him,” he said. “They just seemed to want to touch him.”

According to Mr. Bell, 911 proved less than helpful. He said he spent too much time trying to relay their location just feet from the Harrington Public Library. Another student asked to help and Mr. Bell sent him to the library to call 911 again. Someone ran to the Harrington Fire Department, another drove there a few moments later. He said it took five to ten minutes for the alarms to sound.

After seeing that the student was getting necessary help, Mr. Bell finished his run.

“I was visibly shaken up. I just couldn’t wait for the run to be over to have a moment to myself,” he said. “I tried to be strong for the children. They had to get home.”

Since the accident, he said he has checked on the student through family when possible. He said the student suffered from at least bruised lungs and kidneys and a severe concussion, but is back in school now and going to therapy.

Even after receiving two awards, one from the school board and another from the transportation director, recognizing him “for going beyond the call of duty,” Mr. Bell said he has been pulled out of the Lake Forest School District due to a driver shortage and now drives in the Seaford School District.

 

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