Noise kept bus driver from knowing of boy's fall

Police investigating if Balto. County pupil, 11, was pushed out rear door

September 09, 2004|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

Old Court Middle School pupils aboard a bus were so rowdy Tuesday that the driver apparently was not aware that a boy had fallen out the rear emergency door, police and school officials said yesterday.

The boy was identified as Sedrick Alexander Bailey, 11, a seventh-grader who lives in the 7800 block of Kenbridge Road in the Windsor Mill area of Baltimore County. He remained in the critical care unit of Sinai Hospital last night and was listed in serious condition, a hospital spokesman said.

The incident occurred less than a block from the boy's home, at Coronado and Kenbridge roads, near Milford Mill Academy.

The bus was heading south on Coronado Road shortly after 3 p.m. when it passed Sedrick's usual stop at Coronado and Nashua Circle, according to police, school system officials and neighbors. The bus had recently changed its scheduled stops, which occurs frequently at the beginning of a school year, said school system spokesman Charles A. Herndon.

County police spokesman Bill Toohey said that after the bus passed Sedrick's usual stop, another child opened the back door and encouraged the boy to jump out.

Police and school officials were investigating whether Sedrick then accidentally fell, jumped or was pushed.

Rudy Seunarine, 43, who lives at Coronado and Kenbridge, said he was in his driveway when he saw Sedrick lying on his back in the street, with the bus traveling on, its emergency door open.

Seunarine said he slipped Sedrick's white notebook under the boy's injured head for support while calling 911 on a cell phone.

"He was in bad shape," the neighbor said. "He was crying. He was in shock. ... He told me he was pushed, but it's up in the air still."

Seunarine said his daughter and his brother ran up a small incline to the Bailey home and alerted the boy's mother. The woman ran out of the family's rancher and rode with her son in the ambulance, Seunarine said.

The bus driver finished his route - one more stop - and started heading to pick up children at another school, Herndon said.

The school system, alerted by police on the scene, then called the driver to tell him what had happened, according to Toohey. The driver, identified by police as John Snyder Foster Sr., 81, immediately returned to the scene, Toohey said.

Noise on the bus

Herndon said the driver told officials that he had been unaware that the boy had fallen from the bus because of the noise on the bus.

"It may have been very difficult for him to know exactly what happened," Herndon said, adding that there was "a lot of noise and disruption" on the bus at the time of the incident. Toohey said there was "considerable shouting."

School buses are equipped with alarms that are supposed to sound when emergency doors open. Herndon said there is nothing to indicate that the alarm malfunctioned.

"As to whether or not the driver heard it, that's something else we're continuing to look at," he said.

Foster did not respond to a message left yesterday at his Randallstown apartment. Herndon said the driver is in good standing and remains on the job.

Woodlawn Motor Coach, the company that operates the bus under contract, referred all questions to the school system.

Ella White Campbell, a Randallstown community activist, said that she has long been telling top school system administrators that student conduct on school buses is a major problem.

`Here it is'

"I kept saying, `It's a matter of time before some of those kids are seriously injured,' and here it is," said Campbell, who is chairwoman of the school system's advisory group on minority student achievement.

Seunarine said Sedrick has lived in the same house his entire life and attended Scotts Branch Elementary School before Old Court Middle.

Toohey said police will only consider filing charges in the incident if they can conclude someone pushed Sedrick intentionally.

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