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Posted on Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 5:58 a.m.

Skyline High School bus crash: 'It was terrifying'

By Cindy Heflin


Skyline High School students Martha Spall, left; Natalie Lovell; and Scott Haddlesey after the bus Natalie and Scott were riding overturned Monday.

Photo courtesy of Christina Lovell

David Lovell knew the roads in his neighborhood north of Ann Arbor were slick Monday morning, so he decided his 17-year-old daughter would not be allowed to drive to school. Instead, she and her younger sister would take the bus.

With that resolved, Lovell headed to work. His daughter Christina, and her sister, Natalie, 15, got on the bus for Ann Arbor’s Skyline High School. When Lovell was still about five minutes away from work, he got a text message. It was Christina, sending him a picture of their overturned school bus and this message, “Great idea … making us take the bus.”

Lovell immediately got on the phone, asking what happened and whether his daughters were all right.

Fortunately, they were. But in the harrowing moment when the bus Christina and her sister were riding spun on the ice and overturned, Christina was terrified.

Christina, who was riding the bus for only the second time this school year, said it was obvious roads were icy before the bus started down the hill on an unpaved section of Maple Road south of Stein Road. She was texting a friend when the bus started sliding and then began spinning.

“It was turning really fast and everyone started screaming,” Christina said. “It spun and then it started falling over and it was terrifying.”

As the bus turned over, students on the right side of the bus, including her sister, fell into or against the seats on the other side, Christina said. Students on the left side of the bus, including Christina, ended up sprawled on the side of the bus or part of the roof.

After the bus came to rest on its left side, students sat in stunned silence for a minute, Christina said, then started making sure they were all OK. The driver also checked on their well-being and started arranging for alternate transportation, Christina said.

After about 10 or 15 minutes, another student and her dad, who happened to be driving by, stopped and opened the rear emergency exit so the students could get out. Sheriff’s deputies came, and the students were eventually taken in sheriff’s vehicles to another bus and continued on their way to school.

After the ordeal was over, students were very relieved. “We were all just really, really glad everyone was OK, because it could have been so much worse.”

Christina was feeling a little sore Tuesday but was otherwise OK, she said. Natalie was suffering from some back and shoulder pain, but also was mostly OK, her sister said.

The district originally said no one was injured, but a few students went to urgent care facilities later in the day Monday suffering from headaches. School officials said only 8 students were on the bus, which had two more stops to make before arriving at Skyline.

As for David Lovell, he’s just glad no one was more seriously hurt.

“Obviously it could have been so much worse and we’re so grateful that it wasn’t.”

Also, he doesn’t fault the Washtenaw Intermediate School District, which provides bus transportation for Ann Arbor Public Schools, for running regular bus routes Monday. “That’s always a tough call,” he said.

How about the decision to make his daughters take the bus?

“I think it was the right decision.” Conditions Monday were too bad for a relatively inexperienced driver, he said.

“In hindsight, I would have taken them to school.”


Ann English

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:22 a.m.

Thank you for the photograph; it shows that the crash happened on the SAFER hill; not as steep as the one passing by Riverbend Drive, and no turn at the bottom, but an UPSLOPE. A hill I have never been afraid of going down, unless a big tree branch were lying across it, which occasionally does happen. No embankment on the east side of the road, but road-level trees. It is a more informative photo than the one we could open by clicking Maple & Stein in blue letters; that was just a picture of the intersection, probably facing south. Once the one-lane bridge at the bottom of the northern hill was blocked by a branch, with just enough room for a car to get by on the east side, so we took turns driving around that branch. A school bus could not have gotten through without hitting the branch.

Max Peters

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 8:26 p.m.

Uh, a bus with only *8* kids on it and only two stops to go? Why?

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 6:28 p.m.

One thing I have always wondered...Why are there no seatbelts on school buses? Wouldn't it make the kids safer?


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 8:45 p.m.

see cindy's reply to the very first comment in the thread


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 6:18 p.m.

The cold facts: Before the accident occurred WISD Transportation was advised of the unsafe conditions by drivers as they encountered the ice covered roads, yet this information was disregarded until after the aforementioned event took place along with several other buses requiring towing. In other words, if only the decision maker had not stubbornly and imprudently ignored concrete warnings advising him of road conditions, or if he or his staff had done their due diligence and themselves checked the roads overnight -- a long established precaution -- this dangerous event would have been averted.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

Ban all school buses "Think of the children"


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 4:59 p.m.

They look terrified in the picture


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 8:44 p.m.

they're teenagers...what do you expect after they survive a near death experience? "cool! let's do that again!"

Julie Baker

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 4:39 p.m.

Comments that discussed moderation policies have been removed. You can discuss moderation here: <a href=""></a>


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 4:28 p.m.

73 degrees and sunny on the Central Coast of California.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 3:59 p.m.

Glad everybody was okay. For all those playing the blame game, how long have you lived in Michigan? Driving on slick roads should be your forte by now. It's not like the Road Commission can magically de-ice every road instantly. And to be honest, I think the salt does way more damage than its worth (both environmental and to your car). It should be used sparingly.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 9:08 p.m.

Good Post ArthGuinness, I couldn't have said it better myself. People are so quick to place blame and when its weather related its always the road commissions fault. When in actuallity they are no more to blam then mother nature.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 3:16 p.m.

I believe that Dr. Green is new to Ann Arbor and new to the concept of rural roads getting icy especially after a snow fall, rain and freezing temperatures. Dr. Fornero lived on a rural road and understood the concept. He was more willing to call a &quot;snow day&quot; for poor travel conditions.

Ron Granger

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

Alright. That's it! Mandatory helmets for the kids while riding the bus! Glad nobody was hurt. But why didn't the driver evacuate the students from the bus? I did not read that the door was jammed. Why did someone outside the bus have to open the door? In any accident, there is always a risk of fire. If a vehicle is not resting on all four wheels, then you can assume fuel is leaking out. Diesel fuel is fairly safe, but you never know. Shouldn't the emergency door have been immediately opened to provide an evacuation route? And if the emergency exit could not be opened, then the main door should have been opened. I would think both doors should be opened immediately. If there is a fire, one of the exits may not be viable. And there is always the chance that a door will jam. Maybe the buses now also have a roof exit? Being cold on the side of the road is way better than being inside a bus once it starts burning. I hope the bus department is reviewing this incident, their procedures, and training. It seems like they could have done a better jobs getting the kids out of the bus ASAP. Anyone know what the best practices are?


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 2:39 a.m.

Well just to let you know that the white things one the top of the bus, the airvents can be used as escapes, also as some one that used to ride the bus, id rather be opening the doors myself then have them open automatically, the bus landed on the drivers side too. there are also emergency exits as windows . honeslty is was safer to leave them on the bus while emergency personnel where arriving, if smell of smoke or feul where present then get the kids out of the bus.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 5:51 p.m.

I can't help but laugh at the picture of a bunch of kids on a bus wearing bicycle helmets.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

I'm also very curious about the emergency door situation. It's surprising that the door had to be opened from the outside (assuming that was the case).

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

The kids didn't know it even happened. They were all sitting there mindlessly texting away and next thing they knew there were weeds and dirt smashed up against their windows, and they said &quot;What-evs,&quot; and got out of the bus. They still think the windows were just dirty and there are a lot of tall weeds at the bus stop.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

The Road Commission has nothing to do with this bus accident. The schools should have called a delay or worked off the paved road only like other counties were that day. It is very well possible that the road commission wasn't even aware of the road conditions. If the public/residents knew they should ahve called the county and said something. The road commission would have been out there with no problem.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 3:55 p.m.

My drive to work was just fine. But then, I live in the city.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

luge, now that's a mighty healthy helping of red herring there. Do you have that for breakfast every day?


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:31 p.m.

I totally agree, Usual Suspect. I could care less if school buses overturn daily. It's not the government's job to look out for the public's well-being. Now that I think of it, who needs traffic lights and speed limits? Stupid government...


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:27 p.m.

&quot;It is very well possible that the road commission wasn't even aware of the road conditions.&quot; Yeah... why on Earth would the Road Commission keep abreast of road conditions? They should just hang out in their offices waiting for the public/residents to report stuff.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:22 p.m.

No! We are the 99%, and we have a right to clear, dry roads every minute of every day, dangit! The minute a single flake falls on any road, the government must go remove it immediately! Otherwise, I would have to do something unpleasant like take responsibility for myself and decide whether or not I should drive on the roads according to the conditions. I want to be able to drive without thinking and have the government take care of me.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:05 p.m.

I never gave permission for my image to be used. Shouldn't the people in the photo be notified at the very least before their picture is put up on this site? And you got my last name wrong, it's Spall. &gt;:(

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 8:04 p.m.

&quot;You might want to direct your complaint to the person who took your photo.&quot; ... and then gave it to

simply amazed

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 6:34 p.m. is clearly posed...thumbs up and all. Where did you think photo was going to end up?


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 3:52 p.m.

You might want to direct your complaint to the person who took your photo.

Jack Gladney

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 3:12 p.m.

Lol! Martha was just tagged in a photo on 50 Facebook pages without permission. Stay in school and study hard.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:38 p.m.

Even so, it's a great pic Martha, of you and your friends! What a precarious position that bus landed in. It brings back memories of my high school days, growing up in a rural area with gravel roads, and a fear of ditches. My bus never ended up in the ditch, but my old hand-me-down Buick did several times, thanks to those slippery roads.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:35 p.m.

...but it would have been nice if Cindy had answered your question about that.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:13 p.m.

I don't believe your permission required when you are photographed in public.

Cindy Heflin

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:11 p.m.

We've corrected the spelling. Thank you.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Glad to hear that everyone's OK. Something else that stuck out in the story was that there were 8 kids on the bus and only two more stops to make before arriving at the school. Unless there were a whole lot of kids at those two remaining stops, that bus sounds like it would be mostly empty. And this on a day when there were more kids than usual on the bus due to the icy roads. If AAPS is hurting so bad for money, why are they vastly underutilizing resources like this?


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 6:59 p.m.

I don't know the area well enough but I've seen buses stop once or twice in a subdivision and fill up. Also, notice that 2 of the students named in the article don't usually ride the bus but have the option to. How many other high school students drive or are driven to school but have the option to ride the bus if necessary? Could account for the empty seats. Maybe they need to make parents sign up for bus service so that if their kids are driving or being driven they can use the space for other students.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 3:02 p.m.

A school bus holds 60-70 kids comfortably. I doubt one of the next two stops was going to have anywhere near 60 kids, or even 30 at each of the next two.

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:12 p.m.

Uh..... a bus starts empty every day. How would you solve that problem? Make 20 kids sleep on the bus, so that when it starts it's route it's not empty and not &quot;under-utilized?&quot; Bus stops have been consolidated. There may have been 8 on the bus at that point, but it's like that at one of the next two stops it was going to fill up.

Dr. I. Emsayin

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:38 p.m.

And the traffic circles don't help inexperienced drivers either. If they put a traffic circle at the end of Newport where it meets Miller, in slick weather there are sure to be crashes because one cannot stop a car as it goes down that hill into Miller. And going up Newport from Miller in slick weather causes cars to slide backwards into the car behind it. The Ann Arbor roads are a danger in icy and snowy weather and AAPS should not wait for something worse to happen before calling a snow/ice day or having a late start (which confounds all the bus routes, I guess). Glad nothing worse happened on this run with the overturn.


Fri, Jan 27, 2012 : 5:56 a.m.

Bertha, I was in a small car behind your school bus that was sliding backward down the hill. Traffic flowing behind me on Miller, school bus sliding down at me in front.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:17 a.m.

If your car has trouble driving up an incline in bad weather, perhaps it's time to invest in a set of snow tires. Expecting the roads to be cleared perfectly by the time *you* want to use them is pure folly.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 7:53 p.m.

Traffic circles have been proven to reduce traffic fatalities and serious injuries.

Bertha Venation

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

I know exactly what you mean, Doc. When I was a kid and took the school bus to Forsythe, we slid backwards and spun around down the hill toward Miller on more than one occasion.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:34 p.m.

They look so happy. Who needs Cedar Point?

Ann English

Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 12:57 a.m.

A previous article said that one of the other bus stops on Bus 119's route is on Northfield Church Road, at Old St. Patrick's Church. Just to the west of it are two hills the Northfield Church Road covers, that can imitate a roller coaster ride when a school bus goes down them; that is what it FEELS like: FUN.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

They do don't they? Late for math? No problem. Not.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:32 p.m.



Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

Why do we not have a late start on mornings like this? All over the country, communities delay the start of school until the bus routes have been prepared for safe driving. Will it take a law suit to wake people up? We are lucky that, it appears, no one was seriously injured.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

Love the common sense dad.

Kai Petainen

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:20 p.m.

that's such a surreal photograph

Usual Suspect

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:17 p.m.

Watch - somebody is going to blame this in Rick Snyder.

Homeland Conspiracy

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

I blame Rick Snyder


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

Weren't they trying to discontinue bus service to these poor rural kids earlier this year? Oh yeah, that was the rich kids at Arrowwood!


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Trinity is now driving some of those children to Pioneer. I know, I saw them pull out last week. Interesting how reducing hi school runs ends up using a privatized system.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 12:52 p.m.

Thank the Washtenaw County Road Commission for not adequately or at all prepping the roads to ensure safety in icy weather. Not like it's anything new. Your tax dollars hard at work.


Thu, Jan 26, 2012 : 5:14 a.m.

Yes, because they can be everywhere at once and get all the roads in just under one hour. Some roads have higher priorities like ambulance routes and main thoroughfares. It's not like Ann Arbor only have five roads or anything. Or that the trucks have a never ending supply of salt on hand. Maybe you'd want them to be like this: <a href="" rel='nofollow'>;feature=related</a>


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 9:05 p.m.

manbearpig- its Washtenaw County Road Commission, not Ann Arbor and there is a reason they don't make it to the side streets all the time after a storm, its because there are more priority roads out there that have higher traffice volume.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 7:50 p.m.

I live on a side street in the city, the ann arbor road commission does not do anything on my street for days after it storms.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 1:14 p.m.

People outside the city have lower taxes. Hopefully, it's worth it.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 12:32 p.m.

Yesterday it was the bus slid and &quot;tipped over&quot;. It was sliding and &quot;landed on its side&quot;. Nothing to worry about here folks. Terrifying sounds like a lot more accurate description. Being in a vehicle without seat belts that is *rolling over* has got to be scary. Why would downplay it like they did yesterday is puzzling.


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 4:37 p.m.

Well I've heard all the &quot;Because modern school buses are already remarkably safe, and because seat belts don't work the same way in buses as they do cars, research shows&quot; stuff before but I still can't wrap my head around that. To me it's common sense. I have a young daughter that I have decided will never ride a school bus because of what I've personally seen with bus drivers who drive carelessly and the fact that until she's 8 she'll be in at least a booster seat but in a school bus that most likely will be over crowded she will be allowed to fly everywhere .

Cindy Heflin

Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:30 p.m.

Most school buses do not have seat belts. Here's an article explaining why: <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Jan 25, 2012 : 2:25 p.m.

I thought that buses have seat belts now - don't they? If they didn't, I'd be surprised that there weren't more serious injuries.