Sinkhole Grounds Moapa Valley School Bus For A Time

A local school bus driver and a load of young kids experienced a strange sinking feeling last week as the front end of their bus gradually sagged into a sinkhole right in front of Grant Bowler Elementary school. It happened just before their departure on Tuesday, Aug. 17.

It had started like any other routine day for bus driver Suzy Fly. She pulled up to the school in the late morning to wait for the kindergarten class to get out and take the kids home. But the routine was about to be disrupted.

In an interview last week, Fly said that she had noticed sand on the driveway in front of the school as she pulled up and wondered where it had all come from. But piles of sand are not unusual there. So Fly just pulled up close to the curb so that the kids wouldn’t have to walk through the sand to get in the bus.

To pass the time waiting for the kids to get out of class, Fly went to work cleaning all the windows on the inside of the bus.

What Fly did not know was that a pipe from the school’s irrigation system had sprung a leak just three days before. That leak had taken place in the spot that was now just beneath her bus.

“We first noticed it on Saturday, because there was water bubbling up all of sudden,” said Bowler principal Kelby Robison. “It was a water line feeding the sprinkler systems. We turned off the water to that line and we thought it was taken care of, at least for the time being. The water stopped bubbling up, anyway.”

Robison said that the problem was immediately reported to Clark County School District operations staff in Las Vegas. They had said that they would be out to fix the problem on Sunday or Monday. But by the time, Fly pulled her bus into that spot on Tuesday, the problem had still not been addressed.

Fly said that she didn’t notice anything happening at all while she was washing the windows inside the bus. Eventually the kids came out and boarded the bus. No one noticed anything wrong.
“We got the kids all loaded up and settled into their seats and I went to drive away,” Fly said. “But the bus wouldn’t move!”

Fly said that she couldn’t imagine what had happened, but the large vehicle wouldn’t budge. She wondered if she had set her tires against the curb when she pulled in. But she turned the wheel and it didn’t change anything. She tried going forward and in reverse and nothing changed. Finally, she got out and walked around the bus to see what was going on. That is when she found the front driver’s side tire sunk to the axle in a water-filled mudhole.
“I got a little worried!” Fly said.

She had recently read about a similar situation where a city bus had been swallowed up into a huge sinkhole that had opened in the middle of the street.

“So the first thing I thought was that I had to get the kids off that bus right away,” Fly said. “We got them out and brought them inside to wait while things got straightened out.”

The kids didn’t have to wait long though, according to CCSD Transportation Supervisor Mike Demers. A call was made that there was a problem and within about five minutes another bus was there to help.

“That is the great thing about a small community, there is always another bus that is pretty close by,” Demers said. “And our drivers are great at coming to help out whenever it is needed. It was a situation where all of the resources pulled together to take care of the problem quickly.”

With only a brief delay, the kids were safely on their way home aboard another bus.
There were no injuries in the incident; not even damage to the bus. Demers explained that a tow truck was called to the scene. It was equipped with a crane arm that could just lift the bus out of the hole and move it over a few feet onto the solid pavement.

“There was no damage at all to the bus,” Demers said. “Once it was back on solid ground it could just be driven away, just as good as before.”

Fly has been driving a school bus for 42 years now. She is the most senior bus driver in all of the Clark County School District; and she has received recognition as such. But this was something new for even her.

“I’ve been driving kids on the bus since 1979 and I thought I had seen it all,” Fly said. “But I have never seen anything like that before.”

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