Winona bus company in center of brake safety investigation
WINONA, Minn. (KTTC) -- It all began last week when the Minnesota State Patrol received a tip that buses from Minnesota City Bus company were missing a brake sensor that alerts drivers when brakes aren't working properly.
The company contracts with the Winona Public School district.
"Apparently some sensors had been removed from a brake module on a Blue Bird bus, and those sensors had been removed eight, nine, maybe as long as ten years," says Winona Area Public Schools Superintendent, Scott Hannon.
State Patrol launched an investigation and discovered seven of the district's buses were missing the safety sensor
Those sensors alert the bus driver when the brakes are not functioning properly. They were removed by a Minnesota City bus service mechanic, from seven of the district's buses. The bus company transports more than 3,000 students a day in the district.
"My brother and sister still ride the bus, so I mean it would be pretty concerning if something happened and they got hurt or something I would be scared," said Emma Cone, a Winona Senior High School sophomore.
The parent company, Illionis-based Durham School Services, operates in 32 states. An official there says this is the first time a problem like this has come up with any of their services. Five of the seven buses are already back in service, but this ordeal has worried school officials.
"We can't have buses on the road with 30, 40, 60 kids going to and from school that has a potential of not knowing whether your brakes are safe or not, so that's disconcerting to us," explains Hannon.
The district has not had any problems over the past decade, but it's troublesome enough that the school is questioning it's contract with the bus company next year.
"We do have a third year of our contract coming up next year and you know, I think we're going to, relatively soon, reevaluate that third year," Hannon says.
Durham School Services is working with officials with the investigation. The mechanic who removed the sensors told officials that Blue Bird bus company had advised they be removed due to corrosion. The worker failed to alert others within the company.
State patrol is investigating if this was an employee mistake, or an intentional act.
Hannon says the school district has not alerted families to this issue, but that if anyone has questions regarding the investigation, they are welcome to contact the district for more information.
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