PORTLAND, Ore. — Wednesday’s unexpected and historic winter storm left hundreds of drivers and passengers on Portland roadways stuck in the snow, including truck drivers, TriMet drivers and school bus drivers — with students still on the bus.
A Portland mother says her son and seven other Portland Public Schools (PPS) students were left behind with a stranger after their bus got stuck in the snow on Wednesday and the driver departed without the kids.
Amanda Matheny told KGW her teen son called her Wednesday night and explained what was happening. He said the bus had gotten stuck in the snow near Northeast 87th Avenue and Beech Street on the way home from Roseway Heights Middle School.
The students hopped out and several bystanders joined in to try to help the bus get unstuck, but they couldn't do it. At that point, the students were allegedly left in the hands of a stranger that lived nearby.
Matheny said all eight students were left inside the stranger's home, waiting for a new bus to pick them up, but the bus they had previously been riding on was nowhere to be found.
"If it was up to me, this driver would be out of a job," she said. "Because to me, that's criminal negligence. Like, to abandon these children like that with someone you don't know. You know, luckily, she was just a good samaritan. But she could've been anything. She could have been a pedophile or a serial killer."
Matheny said she spoke with the stranger who watched the group her son was in, but she believes it was unacceptable for the bus driver to leave students with a stranger.
"PPS is aware of the allegations and we are currently reviewing the matter," PPS said in a statement to KGW. "The safety and well-being of our students and staff remains our primary concern, and we won’t waiver in that commitment."
Driver stuck after dropping off students
The Roseway Heights bus wasn't the only one that struggled during the snowstorm.
A special education bus driver, Carol Heacock, said she also got stuck driving during the winter weather. No one was hurt, but she said believes the students' lives were at risk in the frigid conditions.
Heacock has worked as a PPS special education driver for about four years, and she also serves as the secretary of her department's OSHA safety committee.
Heacock told KGW she started seeing snow falling around 9 a.m. Wednesday, and suspected it would only get worse as the day went on — a hunch that turned out to be correct.
She said her bus got stuck for hours in the worsening snow after taking the last of her students home, an outcome that she believes could have been prevented if the school district had opted to release students earlier in the day.
Heacock dropped off her last student around 4:30 p.m., but she didn't get back to the bus yard until about five hours later, and it took her another 30 minutes to dig our her car.
"Drivers were reporting in road conditions and what they were seeing with the weather, and I would like for people to listen to the transportation department," Heacock said. "They keep saying we are part of the team and that were integral. We are professionals, we know what we're doing and we need people to listen to us."