Officials identify school bus driver and student killed in bus fire southeast of Oakland, Iowa

Officials identify school bus driver and student killed in bus fire southeast of Oakland, Iowa
World-Herald News Service

OAKLAND, Iowa — A school bus driver and a student were killed Tuesday morning in a fire on a school bus southeast of here.

The driver was identified as Donnie Hendricks, 74, of Carson, Iowa. The student was identified as Megan Klindt, 16, who lived at the farm where the bus fire occurred.

The call about the fire went out shortly after 7 a.m. Oakland, Carson and Macedonia firefighters were called to fight the blaze. Dispatchers said the bus, from the Riverside Community School District, was in the driveway of a house at 17840 480th St.

Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Lt. Rob Ambrose said a resident of the Klindt house called 911.

The two weren’t able to get off the bus, he said.

The initial call indicated 20 students were on the bus, but Ambrose said only two people were on board. Ambrose said it may have been Hendricks’ first stop of the day.

The crash occurred as the bus was backing out of the farm’s driveway, Ambrose said. The bus ended up in the ditch on the opposite side of the road, he said.

Firefighters found the bus engulfed in flames when they arrived. Once the fire was contained, the remains of the two people were found on the bus, said Pottawattamie County Chief Deputy Sheriff John Reynolds.

John Ticer, an agent with the Iowa Fire Marshal’s Office, said the bus ran on diesel fuel. Officials are investigating the cause of the fire, he said.

The farm where the fire occurred is off a rural gravel road about six miles east and two miles south of Oakland, which is about 25 miles east of Council Bluffs.

Timothy Mitchell, the superintendent of the Riverside district, said Riverside “suffered a tragedy when we lost a student and an employee in a school bus accident. Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones. The investigation into the cause of the accident is underway, and we are cooperating with law enforcement as they do their work.”

Mitchell said all after-school activities had been canceled for Tuesday and will be rescheduled.

“The entire community of the Riverside Community School District is deeply saddened by the events of this morning,” Mitchell said in a prepared statement. “We would like to thank everyone who has offered assistance. Once again, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is impacted by this tragic event.”

Law enforcement officers blocked off access to 480th Street. Around 10 a.m., a flatbed tow truck arrived at the farm to take the bus away.

The Riverside school district, which serves Oakland, Carson and Macedonia, Iowa, is based in Carson, which is about six miles south of Oakland. The district serves 730 students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. The high school, which serves grades 7-12, is in Oakland.

Bailey Rose, 18, a senior from Oakland, said she took a weightlifting class with Klindt last year.

Klindt was “bubbly, energetic, and she was very caring toward others.”

Rose said Klindt, a sophomore, always would volunteer and say, “‘I’ll be your partner if you don’t have one.'” If someone was left out of some activity, Rose said, Klindt would make sure they were included somehow.

“I know it’s even harder for family members to deal with that kind of loss,” she said. “Friends are dealing with it hard, but family is dealing with it harder.”

Garret Loring, 23, of Oakland, who works at the Buck Snort restaurant in town, said he was familiar with Hendricks.

“He’s been a driver for a long, long time,” Loring said.

Hendricks and his wife, Kathy, were grand marshals of Riverside’s homecoming parade this fall.

The bodies of two people were found on this school bus after a fire Tuesday morning southeast of Oakland, Iowa. (World-Herald News Service)

Brittnee Chase, 19, of Oakland, who works at the Bar’N & Grill in Carson, said Hendricks was her bus driver when she was in school.

“He was a good guy,” she said. “He was amazing.”

She said Hendricks often could be spotted attending his grandchildren’s school events.

Chase also said he was a good customer of hers at the Dairy Queen in Oakland.

“It was always nice to see him come by,” she said.

Hendricks served on Carson’s city council and was elected to another term in November.

A woman outside Hendricks’ home in Carson declined to comment Tuesday, saying it was too soon to speak about him.

The pastor at Carson’s United Methodist Church also said it was too early to comment.

“I’m reeling from this, too,” he said.

The Riverside district did not cancel classes Tuesday. Grief counselors from the Green Hills Area Education Agency were sent to talk with students, said Lane Plugge, chief administrator of the organization.

The Irwin-Kirkman-Manilla-Manning junior varsity and varsity basketball games scheduled for Tuesday night at Riverside have been postponed. Another date has not yet been set.

The Pottawattamie County Sheriff’s Office, the Iowa Department of Transportation and the Iowa state fire marshal will be investigating the fire.

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