Thousands of moms and dads send their children to school on a bus every day and trust that their child will get to school and home safely. One local parent got a heart-stopping call Tuesday and learned her child never made it to school after she had put them on the bus earlier that morning. Luckily she was found safe and sound.
"I'm a mom too and I would be deeply sad, and I'm sorry that it happened. I would be upset if it happened to my student, my child," said Barbara Stucker, General Manager of Big Sky Bus Lines.
Every time a bus comes back to the Big Sky Bus Lines for the day, the drivers are required to go through and make sure that every child that has gotten on the bus is off the bus.
In a Facebook post, Great Falls resident Kelsie Semple says she put her daughter on the number 19 bus in the morning and sent her off to school.
But then she got the call that her daughter was absent. Knowing that couldn't be the case, she phoned the school and confirmed she wasn't there. Which meant she must still be on the bus.
While racing to the bus parking lot, the Cascade County Sheriff's office called and said they had her.
"We're horrified. It doesn't happen. We have our protocol and procedures in place. Something was missed, a step was missed and she must have fallen asleep and when the aide walked to the back of the bus, he didn't see her," said Stucker.
After waking up, the five-year-old girl got out of the bus and walked to the Old Havre highway and waved for help.
Mother and daughter were reunited a short time later. Brian Patrick, the Director of Business Operations for Great Falls Public School District, said they expect the bus company to always put the safety of children first.
"As a school district, we sure appreciate the people who saw the child on the road who made the call and the quick action taken by the police department to get to the scene and ensure the safety of that girl. It really speaks a lot to the community," said Patrick.
Big Sky Bus Lines will add extra training after Tuesday's incident in an effort to stop it from ever happening again.
After we spoke to both the bus company and the school district, they later said that the driver has been reassigned until the investigation is closed.