RHINELANDER - A Rhinelander student made it onto her school bus and to class unhurt last Tuesday, but she almost didn't. A recent close call left Bowen Bus Service employees wondering if Rhinelander will be the next to see a student killed while simply trying to get to and from school.
On Hwy 8 last week a student was nearly hit by a truck at her bus stop, leaving the bus driver in disbelief. In a surveillance video from the bus, you can hear the bus driver say "That car like just missed you. That truck just missed her."
The video shows the truck used the right-hand shoulder to get around the stopped bus. The child climbed up the steps just a moment after it passed through.
Bowen's Bus Service Manager Kim Weyers was horrified when she saw the video.
"My heart dropped," said Weyers. "It was maybe a second away from being the ultimate tragedy."
"It was an 'oh my goodness' moment, it took my breath away," said Oneida County Sheriff's Capt. Tyler Young. "I was shocked."
Weyers called Young to show him the video.
"To me that's a 911 call," said Young. "We almost lost a child's life."
The bus driver couldn't get a license plate to identify the driver and no one called police.
"It's hard to follow up on this right now," said Young. "This is where we, as a community, have to be aware of this. We have to work together."
Young encourages community members to take action if they witness a similar situation.
"Call 911, try to give a description of the vehicle, the location, if possible plates, and if you can keep it in view obviously until law enforcement can respond," said Young.
Though this case is more serious than usual, Weyers said it's normal for drivers to ignore the law when it comes to school buses.
"There's rarely a day that goes by that I don't have one of my drivers saying somebody ran their red light," said Weyers.
So far this school year Bowen's has been able to report 19 incidents to police, but that number doesn't include all the times when a bus driver can't catch a license plate number.
"Upon availability of deputies, they'll be more close observations of what's happening around our school buses in Oneida County," said Young.
Weyers hopes moving forward drivers could keep one thing in mind.
"For those of you that think it's okay to speed up when you see a bus's yellow light so you don't have to stop, or think it's okay to just pretend you didn't see the stop sign and run through it because you might be five minutes late for work, you could be putting a child's life in danger," said Weyers.
Weyers said that school bus routes along Hwy 8 are where many violations are seen.
Young said if the driver were identified, he'd want that person to face reckless endangerment charges.