River Bend bus driver, students honored

Jacqueline Covey/Clinton Herald(From left) River Bend School Board President Dan Portz, students Tristan Toppert, Taylor Stuart and Michelle Flesch, bus driver Sonja Swanson and River Bend School District Superintendent Darryl Hogue. Portz and Hogue presented the three students and their school bus driver with Steamer Strong awards Wednesday.

FULTON, Ill. — A River Bend school bus driver and three students have been honored for being Steamer Strong in connection with a Feb. 8 bus accident.

River Bend School Board members on Wednesday night awarded driver Sonja Swanson and students Michelle Flesch, Taylor Stuart and Tristan Toppert for their actions after a vehicle struck the bus from behind as it traveled to school.

Superintendent Darryl Hogue said it was evident that Swanson is Steamer Strong, as she immediately reacted to the accident. Board President Dan Portz commended Hogue for also reacting appropriately by sending out updates.

"It's nice to know that when something goes wrong, others step up and help out," Portz said. "Everybody came together."

Flesch, Stuart and Toppert consoled younger students, who may have been distraught by the accident. When Whiteside County sheriff's deputies arrived, the three also offered information about the accident.

Swanson didn't ask the three to step in, though they did. To Eric Fish, board member, offering aid during an emergency is a sign of leadership and good character.

"They are absolutely amazing. They are everything that is good about our students today," Swanson said.

The accident happened at 7:40 a.m. Feb. 8 at the intersection of U.S. 30 and Elston Road. Authorities have determined that a vehicle driven by Timothy K. Perry, 22, of Albany, Georgia, was traveling west on U.S. 30 and did not observe traffic slowing in front of him. According to the Whiteside County Sheriff’s Office, Perry swerved to avoid colliding with a passenger car and went onto the north shoulder of the roadway. Perry then struck School Bus No. 3, which was traveling west on U.S. 30 and making a right turn onto Elston Road.

As a result of the crash, Perry as well as three students were transported to Mercy Medical Center–Clinton for treatment of non-life threatening injuries.

Perry was cited for failure to reduce speed to avoid an accident. Deputies were assisted at the scene by Fulton ambulance personnel; the Fulton Fire Department; Albany, Illinois EMS; the Clinton Fire Department; and the Fulton Police Department.

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