School district leaders credit seat belts in Green Bay bus crash

Published 05/06 2014 05:47PM

Updated 05/07 2014 09:56AM

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WFRV) - The cause of a school bus crash in Green Bay Monday is still under investigation, but district leaders are crediting seat belts  with stopping any serious injuries.

"I think the way it happened, the circumstances," said Al Behnke, Facilities and Operations Director, GBAPSD. "We were very fortunate."

The bus was taking 18 preschoolers to an afternoon Head Start program when it went off the road and hit a large tree branch. One child suffered minor scrapes and cuts.  The students were wearing safety harnesses at the time of the accident.

Safety belts are a federal requirement for Head Start school buses only. State lawmakers have made repeated attempts to mandate safety belts on all buses. The most recent bill was introduced at the end of last year, but never made it out of committee.

"I think it made an impact yesterday that they were in the harnesses." Behnke said. "I certainly would be an advocate for seat belts. I think it would be a wise move for that to happen, but that's a little bit beyond our control."

Lamers operates the buses for the Green Bay school district. Manager Cindi Lawler said the buses are designed with high padded seat backs and strong steel sides meant to keep kids safe in case of an emergency.

"It's padded all around them," Lawler explained. "They're fairly close together so there's not a lot of space for them to fall off the seat and land on the floor. So that's the design."

"There's still  a lot of debate, I think, within the industry of what is the best way to go if it's needed at all," added Behnke.

The cause of the crash is under investigation.

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