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Early morning graduation bus accident averted

White Salmon School District bus involved in minor accident with none of the students injured.

White Salmon Valley School District has suspended a veteran bus driver's driving privileges after a mishap Sunday morning during the return trip from an all-night post-graduation party for the CHS class of 2001 in Beaverton, Ore.

According to district officials, the lead bus in a two-bus tandem grazed a guardrail in the right-hand eastbound lane of Interstate 84, at about 6:30 a.m., around five miles east of Cascade Locks.

None of the 39 people on board the bus (34 students, four chaperones and the driver) were injured during the mishap and the bus sustained minimal damage.

The driver, Jeff Gleason, 46, was cited by the Oregon State Police for careless driving. He spent the night following the mishap in Skyline Hospital, where he underwent tests and observation.

Gleason, a frequent driver for out-of-town school activities, started driving bus for the district in 1993. Sunday's mishap was his first as a bus driver.

"Jeff's got a great driving record. He's been a super driver for us," Superintendent Dale Palmer said, adding, "We don't have a clue as to why it happened."

The potential for injuries and more serious damage was averted by the quick reactions of chaperones Bill Anderson and Mona Miller, according to Palmer.

Like all the students and other chaperones, Anderson and Miller were asleep until the sound of the bus brushing up against the guardrail woke them.

Anderson, seated two seats away from the front of the bus, noticed Gleason slumped over the steering wheel and ran forward. With Miller's assistance, he brought the bus under control and to a stop.

"We're thankful a guardian angel was watching over them that night, and that Bill and Mona were there to step in and prevent a more serious accident for occurring," Palmer said.

District Transportation Supervisor Sharon Schalk dispatched another bus to pick up the students and chaperones and transport them back to White Salmon. She herself drove home the bus involved in the mishap.

"As a matter of policy, and for safety, we never let kids travel in a bus that's been in an accident," Schalk noted.

Gleason, currently under the care of a doctor, won't be allowed to drive a bus until he receives medical clearance, according to Schalk.

"Until he has had further medical tests, he won't be getting behind the wheel," she said, adding, "We're looking -- and hoping -- for a clean bill of health."


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