Popular school bus driver dies at wheel shortly after completing morning run BALTIMORE COUNTY

November 19, 1992|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,Staff Writer

A retired Baltimore firefighter who drove a school bus for five Reisterstown-area public schools collapsed at the wheel and died yesterday, just after completing his morning run to Cedarmere Elementary School, Baltimore County police said.

Thomas Barton Schanberger, 61, of the 200 block of High Falcon Road, Reisterstown, was alone in the bus when it ran off the road just before 9 a.m. and crashed into a tree at Cherry Hill Road and Mardan Drive, police said. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

Beginning his day at 6:45 a.m., the popular driver carried about 250 students on five different routes: the Deer Park route for both for Franklin Middle and Franklin High schools; the Strawhat route for Owings Mills Elementary School, the Treeline route for Reisterstown Elementary and the High Falcon route for Cedarmere, according to Rita Fromm, director of transportation for the county schools.

"The gentleman was just superb, " Ms. Fromm said. "He would do anything, any time, anywhere, for anyone. He was very fond of children. You can't do it long if you're not."

Witnesses reported that the bus swerved to the right, ran over the curb and struck a tree. The bus was badly damaged, there were no skid marks, and witnesses saw nothing that might have caused the driver to brake suddenly, police said.

An autopsy was scheduled, but police noted Mr. Schanberger's history of bypass surgery and heart medication and said he apparently died of a heart attack.

He been a school bus driver for five years, and a substitute before that, Ms. Fromm said.

At the Cedarmere school, Principal Susan Dingle said she had written a letter to parents about Mr. Schanberger's death, and that the children on his bus were told on board as they left school.

"We're asking parents to talk to them and encourage them to express their feelings," she said. "We will have someone from the crisis team tomorrow, as well as our counselors here, because the children form a very strong attachment to their bus drivers.

"The bus drivers say hello to them every day, and remember their birthdays. . . . The children are very fond of them."

At Reisterstown Elementary, Principal Dena Love said she took a similar approach, with a letter to parents, and asked them to tell their children about Mr. Schanberger's death.

Before his retirement in 1984, Mr. Schanberger was a Baltimore City firefighter, serving at the station at Glen Avenue and Cross Country Boulevard, said Mel Beavers, his friend and longtime companion.

Ms. Beavers said Mr. Schanberger was born in Carroll County and served in the Navy from 1947 to 1952, including duty during the evacuation of Nicosia, Cyprus. He was active lifetime member of VFW Post No. 521, and American Legion Post No. 122.

Survivors include his wife, Lorraine Schanberger of Pikesville; four daughters, Chris Bauer of Baltimore, Cathy Smith of Pennsylvania and Carol Sharpe and Cindy Lindsey, both of Pikesville; two sons, Bart and Brett Schanberger; and 12 grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements were incomplete last night.

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