UPDATE: Chilliwack school bus driver never intended to unsafely cross tracks, says district

Bus driver believed people crossing tracks ahead of him were being guided by flagger

The Chilliwack School District says they will be reviewing on-board camera footage after a video surfaced online of one of their drivers seeming to operate a full bus unsafely.

But for the meantime, they are satisfied with the driver’s explanation of what transpired.

The bus was videoed in the wrong lane of traffic on Broadway Avenue Friday morning, by a nearby motorist, as traffic was apparently stopped at the railway crossing near First Avenue. That motorist loaded a video to several Facebook pages saying the driver was trying to drive through the lowered crossing arms.

Al Van Tassel, director of facilities and transportation for School District 33, said the driver had been part of a long line of traffic stuck at the crossing. The students on board were music students from Sardis secondary on their way to FG Leary, along with a district teacher. When traffic began to slowly move, the driver believed it was because an official flagger was moving cars through safely.

As he got closer to the tracks he realized that the traffic was flowing because cars had been travelling across the closed tracks illegally.

“He’s assuming there is a railroad flagging person allowing people to cross, and as he moves forward and gets to the crossing, he sees there is no flag person there,” Van Tassel told The Progress over the phone. “So the people in front of him were illegally crossing.”

He said the driver said he “makes the decision that that’s not acceptable, and at that point he has the teacher only help guide him in a turn around, with a teacher watching at the back of the bus.”

He said they have cameras on the bus and are able to review the footage.

“The bus driver never attempted to cross,” he affirmed. “He followed our policy.”

A student on board the bus confirmed that from her point of view, through Facebook comments.

“Everyone was just driving around them so our bus driver gave it a try,” Lauren Stewart said on a Facebook post. She added that a train had just passed through and was stopped on the tracks and nobody on the bus was in danger at any time. There is only one set of tracks at that location.

The bus did eventually successfully back up and turn around, and the man in the video is the teacher from Sardis assisting with that turn around.

But the video caused an outcry on Facebook when it was posted, with many assuming the manoeuvre was unsafe.

The crossing is the same one where Chilliwack man Matthew Jarvis was killed when his mobility scooter’s tire became stuck in the tracks in May 2018.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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