Kids fall ill on hot school bus in Everett; driver on leave

EVERETT — The Everett School District is investigating why kids from Emerson Elementary in south Everett fell ill on the bus ride home this week.

The incidents occurred on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Ashley Ericksen said her daughter Amya, 7, became sick and started throwing up Tuesday afternoon on the bus.

The bus was hot, Ericksen said, and the bus driver apparently refused to let the children lower the windows.

Another student helped Amya off the bus and walked her home, Ericksen said. She was well enough to return to school the next day.

The region had record heat this week, with temperatures at Paine Field reaching 83 degrees on Monday, 77 on Tuesday and 76 on Wednesday, all of which were record highs for those dates, said meteorologist Johnny Burg with the National Weather Service.

Friday is expected to be cooler, with temperatures in the 60s.

The Tuesday incident was reported to the school, the district and Durham School Services, the company that operates the school buses under contract with Everett Public Schools.

Tanya Raffensperger-Dowell, whose 11-year-old daughter, Elisabeth, helped Amya home, called Durham and spoke to the general manager.

She was told that the driver in question would not be driving the bus the next day.

A statement from National Express LLC, Durham’s parent company, confirmed the incident but didn’t go into further detail.

“We are currently conducting an investigation of the incident and the driver has been placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation,” it read.

On Wednesday, Durham’s training and safety supervisor drove the bus, had all the windows rolled down and handed out water bottles to any student who asked for one.

Amya fell ill again, as did another student. Amya lost consciousness and the manager called 911.

“I sent my girls with water bottles,” Ericksen said. “Evidently the heat was too much for Amya.”

Amya and the other student were treated at the scene before being returned to their parents, Ericksen said.

Amya was feeling fine physically Thursday, she said, but didn’t want to get on the bus in the morning.

“She’s terrified to be getting on the school bus,” Ericksen said.

The school apparently had several fans running on the bus in the afternoon, and Amya decided she wanted to try riding it home again, she said. Amya got home without incident.

Emerson Principal Paul Edwards sent an email message to parents Thursday, outlining the details of the two incidents and noting that he was personally talking to every student who rides that bus.

“Please remind your students to report to an adult if they or their friends ever feel unsafe. Also, please reassure your students that those on route 26 have a new driver, and their friends and other students are doing well,” he concluded.

Raffensperger-Dowell said even with the reassurance from the principal, her 7-year-old daughter, Rian, refused to take the bus Thursday.

“She’s traumatized,” she said.

Her older daughter, Elisabeth, who had assisted Amya, insisted on riding the bus. “She said, ‘Mom, I have to take the bus. What if something happens and I’m not there to help?’ ”

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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