'I thought the seats were going to catch on fire;' but the bus drove on
GRESHAM, Ore. - School can be scary enough for a fifth-grader, so a terrifying bus ride beforehand hardly seems fair.
A bus full of children on the way to Kelly Creek Elementary suffered a severe antifreeze leak Wednesday morning.
Worse, kids were left burned and choking when the driver failed to pull the bus over.
"I would call it the scariest moment of my life," said fifth-grader Lillian Miller. "It smelled really bad and we really couldn't breathe, so I wish he would have stopped and we could have done something about it."
Lillian said she, her brother Adrian and a few other fifth-graders were sitting in the back of the bus when they noticed something was wrong. The siblings both ended up with bad rashes on their feet.
"I started smelling this weird smell, and thought it was just the heaters" she said. "Then I heard a bunch of 'eww,' and I thought someone threw up or something.
"Then I felt stuff go over me and I'm like 'Oh my gosh, there's going to be throw up on me,' and then it started to like sting, and so I took my shoe off and I looked down and it was like this red stuff going down the aisle way."
Adrian, who said the anti-freeze came out near his seat, said he ended up with red bumps on his foot.
He first noticed a problem when his seat grew hot, and he had to climb up on the back of it.
"There was a bunch of smoke in the air so I thought the seats were going to catch on fire," he said.
Lillian said the students in back, who were the first to notice what was happening, tried to tell the driver there was a problem.
She said she thinks the driver might have believed they were just arguing.
"We were all screaming and we were like 'stop, stop," she said.
The driver didn't stop, continuing with his route until the bus got to school a few minutes later.
The district acknowledges that the driver's failure to stop is where the problem began.
"There was so much kids crying - we couldn't really breathe," Lillian said. "There's one kid who had his head out the window, because we couldn't breathe like fresh air.
"Kids' eyes were tearing up and it was really scary so we were all like crying and stuff."
Lillian said the group in back considered jumping out the emergency exit at a red light. She said that once the bus arrived at school, one student with asthma fell to the ground coughing.
The bus company, First Student, declined to comment and directed KATU News to the Gresham-Barlow school district.
"He should have immediately stopped the bus and radioed for assistance, and that is being made clear to him," said district spokeswoman Athena Vadnois. "It's unfortunate what happened. It shouldn't have happened."
The same driver took the Millers to school Thursday morning, they said. The district is leaving it up to First Student to decide if and how to discipline him.
Still, Lillian said she likes the driver.
"He's a really nice bus driver, so I'm pretty sure he didn't mean to not stop," she said. "I'm pretty sure it was just a misunderstanding.
"But I wish he would have stopped."