DODEA school bus driver released from police custody, license revoked after crash near Ramstein Air Base
Stars and Stripes March 10, 2023
Editors’ note: This story was updated Monday at 1 p.m. to reflect the release of the bus driver and new information from police.
WEILERBACH, Germany — The bus driver involved in a recent DODEA school bus accident has been released from police custody. The 60-year-old driver had his license revoked after the accident due to driving under the influence of alcohol, a police spokesman said.
Defense Department students broke their way out of an overturned school bus on a rural road near Ramstein Air Base on Friday, in an accident that resulted in minor injuries and one child taken to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, local officials and students said.
Police said Monday that contrary to earlier reports, the driver did not flee the scene of the accident, but instead ran bewildered across a field. The driver may have been in shock, according to a police statement.
The results of the driver’s blood test are still pending and are expected to be available to the public prosecutor’s office in the coming days.
The 16 students ranged in age from 6 to 17 and came from Kaiserslautern elementary, middle and high schools, parents and students said after being transported from the scene to the firehouse in Weilerbach. Westpfalz police said five students were injured in a statement late Friday.
The K-204 bus overturned on a rainy, gusty day just before 4 p.m. on District Road 19 between Weilerbach and Erzenhausen.
“It was scary. I’m not hurt. I think I’m OK,” said Isalyn Abalos, 9, a fourth grader. “It felt like a roller coaster when you go straight down, and it was just staying like that.”
Students said the driver had been acting unusually on the bus, which wasn’t speeding before the accident occurred.
Bryan Muniz-Diaz, 17, a Kaiserslautern High School junior, said he was sitting right behind the bus driver. Muniz-Diaz said he noticed something was wrong when the driver went off route and "was driving in a place we didn't recognize.”
At one point, "the driver stopped in the middle of the road, stood up and said something while pounding his chest and crying," Muniz-Diaz said. "His face was all red. He then kept on driving."
While going around a bend in the road on the way to Erzenhausen, the driver "didn't take the turn, he hit a sign and the bus fell over," Muniz-Diaz said.
One of the students woke the driver to help him out of the back of the bus. Meanwhile, some of the older students used a metal bar to crack the glass in the back and exit.
Kaiserslautern High School junior Vera Bahl said she then used her school-issued Chromebook to shatter the door so kids could climb out.
Bahl said her friend fell on her back and later was taken to a hospital.
Jailan Grant, 15, a ninth grader, said he and some other high school students helped the younger kids exit through the back.
Grant called his parents, Air Force Tech. Sgt. Kavan Grant and Tia Grant, while inside the bus.
"I was freaking out," Tia Grant said. "He was like, 'The bus flipped over. The bus flipped over!' We jumped in the car to go see what happened.”
Jalian Grant said he fell on his shoulder but was otherwise unharmed.
Muniz-Diaz said some of the younger kids were shaken up.
"They were crying, trying to hug me, asking me if everything was going to be OK," he said.
The driver was taken to a local hospital with minor injuries, officials said.
Parents and students gathered at the Weilerbach firehouse, where the kids were checked out by paramedics for any injuries. They were given juice, snacks and blankets.
German police are leading the investigation into the cause of the crash, with help from Army military police and the Air Force’s security forces, American officials at the firehouse said.
For the latest updates on this story, go to K-Town Now, our site for the Kaiserslautern Military Community.