Chilliwack bus driver on wrong side of road wasn’t unsafely crossing train tracks: school district

Witness says driver was trying to sneak bus through train crossing arms, with students on board

A Chilliwack school bus driver caught on video on the wrong side of the road, was quick to draw concern from social media users. But the school district says the driver was under the impression traffic was being diverted into the oncoming lane.

The bus, filled with students, was videoed in the wrong side of the road on Broadway Avenue Friday morning, by a nearby motorist, as traffic was stopped at the railway crossing near First Avenue.

The video appears to show the bus stopped near the tracks, with a teacher walking around the bus. Commentary by the man who captured the video alleges the bus was trying to illegally cross the tracks by going through the oncoming lane.

But the Chilliwack School District says that until they review the footage from inside the bus, they are satisfied with the driver’s explanation with what transpired and deny he was attempting to cross.

Al Van Tassel, director of facilities and transportation for School District 33, said the driver had been part of a long line of traffic stuck at the crossing awaiting a train to clear the tracks.

The students on board were music students from Sardis secondary on their way to FG Leary, along with a district teacher.

According to the driver, traffic began to slowly move ahead of him, and he believed it was because an official flagger was directing cars to use the other lane to safely cross the tracks.

But as he drove closer, he realized that there was no flagger and cars had been travelling across the closed tracks illegally, Van Tassel said.

“He’s assuming there is a railroad flagging person allowing people to cross, and as he moves forward and gets to the crossing, he sees there is no flag person there,” Van Tassel told The Progress over the phone. “So the people in front of him were illegally crossing.”

He said the driver decided that was not acceptable, and the video taken was in fact of the teacher on board helping him reverse the bus.

Van Tassel said they have cameras on the bus and are able to review the footage.

“The bus driver never attempted to cross,” he affirmed. “He followed our policy.”

A student on board the bus confirmed that this was what she saw from her spot on the bus, through Facebook comments.

“Everyone was just driving around them so our bus driver gave it a try,” Lauren Stewart said on a Facebook post. She added that a train had just passed through and was stopped on the tracks and nobody on the bus was in danger at any time.

The bus did eventually successfully back up and turn around.

But the video caused an outcry on Facebook when it was posted, with many assuming the manoeuvre was unsafe.

The crossing is the same one where Chilliwack man Matthew Jarvis was killedwhen his mobility scooter’s tire became stuck in the tracks in May 2018.


@CHWKcommunity
jpeters@theprogress.com

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