A Twin Cities trucker who roared past a stopped school bus and nearly struck a sixth-grader about to board has been charged with two misdemeanors for the "incredibly dangerous" maneuver on a two-lane central Minnesota highway.
Allen H. Morris, 48, of Apple Valley, was charged this week in Kandiyohi County District Court with violating two statutes on May 30 that called for him to obey the flashing bus lights and extended "stop" arm. Morris is scheduled to appear in court Sept. 10.
According to the criminal complaint, Morris said he was looking off to one side at a field before returning his eyes to the road.
"I looked ahead of me and saw that bus stopped and just couldn't stop," the complaint quoted Morris as telling a State Patrol lieutenant hours after the patrol had posted a video of the incident on YouTube in an effort to find the driver.
He said he saw the girl standing there and was "freaking out" as he drove between her and the bus, the complaint added. He kept going, he said, because he panicked and didn't know what to do.
Later in the conversation, Morris asked, "Nobody was hurt, nobody was hurt, right? Please, tell me no."
Alexis Schwartz said she felt the wind and the dust that morning when the big rig blew by from behind on the right side of her bus along Hwy. 23 and missed her by the width of little more than a three-ring binder.
"It just kept coming and didn't stop, and it didn't even stop when it passed me," she said a few days later. "My heart was pounding awfully fast, and my hands were shaking, because I was so scared to have it come up that close."
Patrol Lt. Eric Roeske said Thursday that this "incredibly dangerous and avoidable incident could have very easily been much more tragic. We hope everyone keeps in mind that school buses will again be out picking up students in the next week or so and they raise their level of awareness accordingly."
The bus video, posted June 3 on YouTube, showed how the truck nearly ran over the 13-year-old along Hwy. 23 in tiny Hawick, between New London and Paynesville: The bus stops 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 bus driver, Mike Egerman, said he had deployed his stop arm, as he does for every pickup and drop-off. A vehicle had already stopped behind the bus, and so did another coming toward the bus.
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.
Morris, who could not be reached for comment Thursday to respond to the charges, was driving from Barron, Wis., to Willmar, Minn., on the day of the incident, according to the complaint.
Court records show one other ticket for Morris in Minnesota since 2000; it came in 2007 in Scott County. His offense: failing to stop for a traffic signal. That cost him $130.
Star Tribune staff writer Joy Powell contributed to this report.