Safety improvements for Fruitport Community Schools’ bus lot after driver run over, hospitalized

Posted at 5:27 PM, Feb 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-05 18:03:59-05

FRUITPORT, Mich. – The Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent said they are making safety and lighting improvements in the school bus lot after a school bus accidentally ran over a bus driver who is still hospitalized.

A friend of transportation staff with the district, who FOX 17 is not identifying, said this accident could have been prevented, and staff had requested better lighting near the bus lot and garage in the past.

“It was preventable and I think they should have done something about it sooner,” the friend said.

Chelly Brown has been a bus driver for the district nearly 30 years, according to her friend. A quick look at her work biography made it clear she gets joy from her position. She wrote:

Each and every day is a special day with new adventures, new beginnings, learning experiences, and a change to grow and feel fulfilled.  I always enjoy seeing some of the very first students from way back and they remember me.   What could be more special than that?

Tuesday morning before school, Fruitport Police said Brown walked toward her bus in the lot when a mechanic, and friend, working on another bus accidentally ran Brown over. She was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.

“Breaks in her pelvis, her hip, her leg bones were crushed,” the friend said. “Lots of prayers are needed for her for recovery. Like I said, the family’s going through a real hard time.”

The friend told FOX 17 some staff believe the parking lot is improperly lit, and said staff had called for more lighting just to prevent something like this from happening.

“[Staff] had suggested that they have lights in that parking area before because of the safety reasons and it was kind of ignored,” the friend said. “I think if they had put lights in that area then she would not have gotten run over.”

Fruitport Community Schools Superintendent Bob Szymoniak told FOX 17 this lighting issue was never brought to his attention before this accident but said he asked his operations manager to make safety improvements. In a statement released Friday to FOX 17 he wrote:

"First, I feel awful for both the driver that was struck and the mechanic who was driving the bus.  I hope both of them are able to recover quickly from the physical and emotional impact this accident has had on them both.

I am aware that poor lighting may have played a part in the tragic accident that took place in our bus garage parking lot earlier this week.  While this has never been brought to my attention prior to this accident, I have asked my operations director to work with our transportation director to address this issue and improve parking lot lighting as quickly as possible."

FOX 17 spoke with Brown’s husband over the phone, who was with Brown in the hospital, who said his wife is unable to speak at the moment and he did not wish to speak on her behalf.

Szymoniak also said he asked for additional gear for transportation staff and mechanics including flashlights and bright-colored safety vests to be worn in the bus lot.