Site where school bus ran over toddler not public road

By: Diane Cho Email
By: Diane Cho Email

March 21, 2007

GROVETOWN, Ga.---There are still many unanswered questions today after a toddler was run over and killed by a school bus in Columbia County yesterday afternoon.

It's a bus driver's worst nightmare that became a screeching reality.

"A big old school bus, you know, you can't see very well out of them because they're so big," said John Wilkins, owner of the property where the accident took place.

Two-year-old Cole Ford was crushed under the wheels of a Columbia County school bus while ten other students were inside to watch it unfold before their eyes.

"This is a tragedy," said school board member Mike Sleeper. "There are no words to describe how anyone could feel. This is something you never want to have happen."

Today, grief counselors were on hand as more than 150 bus drivers packed the auditorium at Harlem High School, looking for answers and fearful it could happen to them.

Meanwhile, the Columbia County Sheriff's Office was back on the scene trying to figure out just went wrong.

The narrow dirt road where the child was crushed behind the wheels of a bus was a private road that was supposed to be restricted to incoming and outgoing traffic. That begs the question of why a Columbia County school bus was on it in the first place.

"It's a one lane road and bus should never be coming through here," Wilkins said.

Wilkins says the dirt path was created by neighbors who were looking for an easier way of getting in and out of their homes.

He says other bus drivers would turn around before the dirt path, but this driver, Candy Hammett, used it for the same reason the neighbors did.

"Something needs to be done," he said. "It's unfortunate a child had to be hurt to bring attention to it."

He told News 12 that he wants to put up signs on the road so other bus drivers won't use it.

Superintendent Tommy Price did not want to comment on the story until the investigation is completed. As of now, we're being told by the sheriff's office that could be within the next seven days.

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