A bus, loaded with 32 students heading home from elementary after school programs, became stranded in a flash flood on Dearman Street Monday afternoon.
Central dispatch received the call at 6:01 p.m. from someone reporting that the bus had slid off the road. The side doors to the bus were heavily damaged but neither the driver, Gayle Pack, nor any of the students aboard were injured. The students, who exited through the rear emergency door of the bus, were loaded onto another bus which was called to the scene. Because of the rising flood waters, the DeKalb County Rescue Squad was summoned to assist in transferring the students from one bus to the other. Members of the Smithville Police and Fire Departments and DeKalb County Sheriff's Department were also on site along with Director of Schools Mark Willoughby and other school administrators.
Director Willoughby told WJLE that it may morning after the water recedes before its known for sure what happened. "There was a lot of flash flooding in the area. We're not exactly sure what happened. But its evident that the door was hit. The water was probably twelve to fifteen inches deep right there. It could have washed out a place in the road and the bus front tire may have hit a hole and caused the damage to the door. The important thing is that no one was hurt. The bus driver handled the situation really well," said Willoughby.
Charlie Parker, Smithville Fire Chief and DeKalb County Emergency Management Agency Coordinator, said much of the flash flooding Monday afternoon was in the Smithville area. "We had several places where water was up and over the road including College Street, Meadowbrook Drive, Dearman Street, Bright Hill Road, and down at the intersection of Highway 56 & 70 near DeKalb Tire and Service we had to detour traffic around for a little while because the drains just couldn't handle it. We've had a lot of water everywhere even out in the county on Turner Road and Jacobs Pillar Road. We had houses on Short Mountain and College Streets where water flooded basements. There were no evacuations other than in a couple of cases on Turner Road where residents, who had water coming up to their porches, decided to leave their homes on their own until the water receded," said Parker.
Director Willoughby said he appreciates the support of the community in responding to this emergency. "We had individuals from the community, parents and volunteers who came out there to help transfer those students from one bus to the other. They just wanted to make sure everything was okay. We also had law enforcement officers, the rescue squad, and EMA coordinator Charlie Parker and his crew. We want to thank everybody for going above and beyond. It's what communities are about and our community did an outstanding job. They just jumped in and did what was needed. I just want to say thank you to all those folks who helped out," said Willoughby.