Sixth-grader Alexis Schwartz said she felt the wind and the dust when a semitrailer truck roared by on the right side of her school bus and missed her by what she figures was only an inch and a half.
“It just kept coming and didn’t stop, and it didn’t even stop when it passed me,” she said. “My heart was pounding awfully fast, and my hands were shaking, because I was so scared to have it come up that close.”
The State Patrol had been looking for the driver, but said late Tuesday night that he had contacted them about the incident. That was after the patrol posted a video from the bus on YouTube showing how the truck nearly ran over the 13-year-old along Hwy. 23 in central Minnesota on Friday morning.
“We’re happy about that,” said Tracy Adams, Schwartz’s mother, when she learned the trucker had turned himself in.
The family lives in tiny Hawick, between New London and Paynesville.
“I was walking to my bus, and then the semi came out, of like, nowhere, and it almost hit me,” Schwartz said.
Her mother had taught her to wait back a distance from the road until the bus stopped and then walk to it. Friday, Schwartz turned her head and saw the semi bearing down, she said.
She saw the bus driver’s worried, scared expression as he looked at the truck and back at her, she said.
The bus driver, Mike Egerman, said he had put out his stop arm, as he does for every stop. A vehicle had already stopped behind the bus and so did another coming toward the bus.
“And that semi just went cruising by, on the right side. It happened so fast, it was amazing,” he said. Egerman estimated the truck was going 45 to 50 miles per hour on a stretch of highway where it drops from four lanes at 65 mph to two lanes at 55 mph.
“I saw her take a step toward the bus, and that semi went flying through. I couldn’t believe it. The shoulder is gravel there, and as soon as that semi went by, I couldn’t see her. I thought she was under the semi. I thought she was dead. And all of the sudden, the dust cleared, and there she stood,” he said.
The video shows the bus coming to a stop in its lane at the end of a driveway at 7 a.m. The door can be heard opening. That’s when the semi kicks up a cloud of dust as it passes, prompting the bus driver to exclaim, “Oooh, whoa!” He honks his horn.
The trucker kept going, which the bus driver for Paynesville Motor and Transfer said “floored” him.
“I was so shook up the rest of the day. It was really a difficult day for me,” he said. “This is small-town rural Minnesota, I know those kids almost like they’re family.”
State Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske called the maneuver “incredibly dangerous and could’ve resulted in killing an innocent child.”
The bus company called Adams at 8:15, and she picked up her daughter after classes at Paynesville Middle School.
“I just wanted to get to her and hold her,” Adams said. “It was a close call, and we’re very lucky.”
The bus had its lights flashing and stop arm down, making the semi’s passing while a student is nearby a gross misdemeanor, according to the State Patrol.
Said the teen: “I feel lucky, and there were angels watching over me.”
Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.