By PAUL SIMS
n Oktibbeha County school bus sat empty early Wednesday morning in rolling flood waters after several people worked to get about 45 students to solid ground.
Just before 8 a.m., the bus driver tried to pass a stalled vehicle on Hickory Grove Road near the intersection with Curtis Chapel Road when the bus got stuck, Oktibbeha County Fire Coordinator Kirk Rosenhan said.
The bus previously traveled the road earlier in the morning but water had risen enough to make the road impassable, Rosenhan said, adding water rose in the bus almost to the floorboard.
The bus was bound for East Oktibbeha County High School, Oktibbeha County School Supt. James Covington said.
The Rev. Kenny Childers, the pastor of Truth Tabernacle Church, lives on Hickory Grove Road.
He’d taken his grandchildren to school and got back to find the stalled vehicle’s driver sitting on the back of his car and students still on the bus.
A deputy asked Childers if he could use his tractor to help get them off the bus.
They placed a door on the tractor’s front fork. Four boys got on. Two of them pushed the other two in the water, Childers said.
“I think they thought they’d get out of going to school if they got wet,” he said. Then, they got three girls out using the same method.
By this time, the fire department showed up with a boat.
Childers says he pulled the boat to the bus using the tractor. “Then we just made kind of a bridge out of the boat and I got in the water and held their hands as they made (it) to dry ground,” he said.
Crews chose to remove the passengers rather than move the bus out of concern the vehicle would slip into deeper water, Rosenhan said.
The students were then escorted to the north side of the road, where another school bus picked them up, he said.
A boom truck eventually pulled out the stranded bus.
“I thank everyone who helped to rectify the situation to help get the children safely to school. We as officials are going to review procedures to make sure we’re using best practices during times when road conditions may not be the best,” Covington said.
Childers commended the East Oktibbeha volunteer firefighters, whom he said seem like “they’ve got their heart in helping somebody. They really just put their heart into it.”
He said the Oktibbeha County Sheriff’s Department “has been the same.”
“Everybody seemed to pull together and help. I thought that was really good,” Childers said.