Accident kills mechanic working on Monroe school bus

MONROE – A Monroe School District mechanic was killed Tuesday after being struck by an empty school bus he was working on.

The mechanic was alone with the bus after it broke down in the 12000 block of 251st Avenue SE about 7:30 a.m., Snohomish County sheriff’s deputy Rich Niebusch said.

“He was in front of the bus, and it rolled forward and somehow entangled him,” Niebusch said. “It dragged him about 25 yards before going into a ditch.”

The school district sent the mechanic, 56, of Snohomish and a replacement bus to 251st Avenue SE after the driver reported a brake problem, district spokeswoman Rosemary O’Neil said.

The second bus picked up the junior high and high school students, and the mechanic stayed behind to assess the problem with bus No. 31, O’Neil said.

A neighbor reported seeing the bus roll down the hill and into an empty field about 7:40 a.m., Niebusch said. The mechanic’s body was discovered nearby, he said.

Wes Gustafson of Snohomish drove by the bus before the accident and said the road was “pretty icy.” When he returned to the intersection after picking up his mother, he said he saw the bus in the field and a hammer, socket wrenches and a block of wood scattered within a few feet of the intersection.

The mechanic’s name was not released Tuesday. He had worked for the district for six years, O’Neil said.

“He was definitely well loved,” she said. “He always greeted everyone, all the drivers that came in, with a big smile and would ask about their days.”

Drivers who worked with the man said he was an outstanding mechanic who would always take the time to answer questions.

“This has shaken everyone very hard,” O’Neil said. “Our hearts go out to his family.”

The district canceled after-school activities and sent a letter home with students, she said.

Substitute bus drivers from nearby districts offered to drive Monroe bus routes Tuesday afternoon, she said. The district provided counselors for transportation department employees.

The Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office and the Washington State Patrol are investigating the accident.

All school buses in Washington state are inspected by State Patrol troopers and must meet the state’s safety criteria, commercial vehicle enforcement officer Robert Petersen said.

Troopers inspected the Monroe School District’s 58 buses in April 2004, he said. Of those, one was placed out of service for a defective emergency parking brake. Another inspection in November of 15 district buses found two with mechanical problems, he said.

The district “does a very good job,” Petersen said. “To have only one or two out of 58 is spectacular.”

Reporter Katherine Schiffner: 425-339-3436 or

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