Island School Bus Flood Rescue: Best Adventure Ever, Say Kids

Sep 20, 2016
Courtesy of: Patrick Sullivan NEVER FEAR: Superintendent Peter Kopak and Principal Frank Birney roll up their pant legs and help out with the transfer of students from the disabled bus to the rescue bus.

En route with schoolchildren on Monday afternoon after a day of rain and flooding, a Long Beach Island School District bus met an unfortunate fate when it broke down in deep floodwater at 14th Street and Central Avenue in Ship Bottom. The 25 kids onboard, however, had an adventure they won’t soon forget.

Shortly after the bus got stranded, Ship Bottom Police Sgt. Ed Williams and Patrolman Jackman Bush responded to the scene in two of the borough’s Humvees to convey the kids to another bus waiting on higher ground.

“We just had them jump on our backs so they wouldn’t get wet, and we carried them over to the trucks,” a few feet walking distance, Williams said.

The bus driver must not have realized how deep it was when he drove through it, Williams said, guessing it was a few feet of water. The air brake tank is situated low on the bus, so water infiltration can disable the braking system, according to transportation coordinator Lynn Moffitt. By Tuesday, the bus was running again but not yet back in service, she said.

But the local police are no strangers to flooding.

“We’re used to that, so we just threw on our waders,” Williams said.

LBI’s Superintendent of Schools Peter Kopak and Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School Principal Frank Birney also came to the rescue.

“They rolled up their pant legs and helped,” Williams said.

The excitable elementary schoolers lined up on the bus and, one by one, rode piggyback across the street to the police trucks and seat-belted themselves in for the short ride to the other bus, standing by on dry land. A few kids were personally delivered to their homes right there in Ship Bottom, and about 22 got on the rescue bus and headed north toward Harvey Cedars.

The kids loved it, Williams said, chuckling. “They said it was the greatest thing ever.”

First-grader Robert Lassonde was nervous about the whole thing initially, because he had never ridden the school bus before. Yet after the events of that afternoon, he said he wants to ride the bus every day from now on.

The Humvees prove to be critical resources for rescues during inevitable flooding events, Williams noted. “That’s what they’re made for,” he said.

—V.F.

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