Child killed, 4 others hurt in Kuna bus crash

Investigators say it may take weeks to determine exactly what happened.

kterhune@idahostatesman.comDecember 5, 2013 

  • Do you have a student who attends school in Kuna?

    Kuna Superintendent Wendy Johnson advises parents whose child or family needs assistance following Thursday's crash to contact your school. Counselors and social workers are available to help teachers, families and students, as are resources from nearby school districts and the Ada County Sheriff's Office.

    Johnson also suggests students write letters of support to their injured peers and to the family of Daniel Cook, who died at the scene. Letters can be delivered to your school office.

    Finally, Boise counselor Kristin Wright posted advice on talking to your child about the accident. Her post can be found at boisecounseling.blogspot.com.

UPDATE: A community prayer service for Daniel Cook is planned for 2-5 p.m. Friday at Kuna United Methodist, 260 W 4th St.

Idaho State Police described a hectic scene in the seconds after a dump truck slammed into the side of a school bus on Happy Valley Road.

The driver of the 1974 Mack truck acted immediately, climbing onto the Kuna School District bus. He tried to calm the terrified children and tend to the injured.

"He was doing what he could to render aid," Master Cpl. Tim Davidson said. "He knew there were kids hurt. He saw the nitty-gritty, if you will, of the crash scene and the damage that had been done, up to and including the deceased boy."

A nurse that had passed the bus only moments before it was hit also pulled over and ran back to the scene, performing CPR on 11-year-old Daniel Cook.

"She saw debris flying in her rearview mirror, and she turned around and went back," said ISP spokeswoman Teresa Baker.

It was too late. Daniel died at the scene.

The tragedy that took his life and injured four other children and the bus driver unfolded on two rural roads southeast of Nampa and west of Kuna. Police say the 1998 Blue Bird bus was headed east on Deer Flat Road when it entered the Happy Valley Road intersection.

Investigators were not yet sure if the bus slowed or stopped at the stop sign on Deer Flat before the two vehicles collided in the intersection.

Both roads at that intersection are posted at 50 mph; Happy Valley Road does not have stop signs.

Two of the injured children and the bus driver - Debra Boatwright, 56, of Kuna - were transported to Saint Alphonsus Medical Center in Nampa, where they were treated and released.

Two other children were taken to Saint Alphonsus' hospital in Boise, then to St. Luke's Children's Hospital, Baker said. They were "alert and awake" before they were transferred to St. Luke's, according to a letter to parents from Kuna School District Superintendent Wendy Johnson.

Police say Boatwright was uninjured, but was in a state of extreme emotional distress. Davidson also described the dump truck driver - Charles Derby, 33, of Nampa - as "distraught."

"They've got this to deal with in their own way and it's going to be hard for them," Davidson said.

The same held true for those responding to the collision.

"I'm sad, and I want to cry," Davidson admitted to reporters during a noon press conference.

The bus was transporting 12 children to Crimson Point Elementary School when it was hit at about 7:56 a.m. Thursday. The oldest child on the bus was a sixth-grader; the youngest was 5 years old.

Adam Cobb came to the crash site Thursday morning to collect Daniel's belongings from the bus and take them home to the boy's parents.

"We're just making sure there's nothing left on the bus from him, a backpack or something," Cobb said.

Cobb's own young son was a close friend of Daniel's. After finding the boy's backpack, Cobb was headed to his son's school to pick him up and break the news.

The families lived near each other a short distance down the road. Daniel had been on the bus for only a few minutes when the crash happened.

"It's just tough," Cobb said. "(Daniel) was just a good kid, good family, just a bad deal."

The bus was apparently hit on its right side behind the rear wheel, based on observations of damage at the scene. Four windows were broken out. The dump truck's hood appeared to be ripped off and its front end was damaged.

Derby tried to slow down when he saw the bus, Davidson said, but was unable to stop in time.

"There's a lot of weight involved: you've got a heavy vehicle being hit by a heavy vehicle, so any impact, particularly to little bodies, is going to do a lot of damage," he said.

The dump truck involved in the collision had numerous equipment violations; the school bus did not. Police couldn't say if those violations were a factor in the crash.

The bus is owned and operated by the Kuna School District, according to the Idaho State Department of Education. Grief counselors are available through the school district to students who need them.

Gov. Butch Otter, at the start of a live chat Thursday on IdahoStatesman.com about education reform, expressed his and first lady Lori Otter's "deep concern for the children and families involved. They're in our thoughts and prayers."

Davidson said charges were "likely" in the crash, but said investigators were still working to determine what had happened. ISP in a later press release stated the investigation could take several weeks; police won't determine whether to pursue charges until after it is complete.

Katie Terhune: 377-6219

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