A 6-year-old kindergarten student from Buxton was dragged nearly 600 feet alongside a school bus Thursday after the boy’s backpack got caught in the door of the bus as he was getting off it.

School Administrative District 6 Superintendent of Schools Paul A. Penna, in a telephone interview Thursday night, promised there will be a thorough investigation – by both the school district and the Buxton Police Department – of how the freak accident could have happened.

Buxton police on Friday identified the driver as 63-year-old Kenneth Hawley. A preliminary investigation shows he drove approximately 573 feet at low speed while dragging the child. The accident remain under investigation, according to police.

The boy, who Penna said is a student at Buxton Center Elementary School, was transported by ambulance to Maine Medical Center in Portland following the incident, which took place around 3:15 p.m. The boy’s mother rode in the ambulance with her son, Penna said. They were later joined by the boy’s father, who came to the hospital from work.

Penna, who also went to Maine Medical Center, said the child suffered skin abrasions but did not appear to be seriously injured. The other students on the bus were uninjured, according to police. They were transferred to another bus to be taken home.

The superintendent said the school bus was dropping the child off at his home on Dunnell Road in Buxton, where his mother had been waiting. Somehow, the boy’s backpack got caught up in the door of the bus as he was getting off it. Penna estimated that the youngster was dragged between 100 and 200 feet before the driver noticed that the boy’s mother was running alongside the bus trying to get it to stop. Police later said that distance was much longer.


“It’s a terrible accident and it raises some concerns,” said Penna, who does not know yet how the driver could have missed seeing the backpack and student. “We’re going to have to look at our practices because the safety of our students is paramount.”

Students exiting the bus in question use the front door, which means they must pass by the driver before getting off. The investigation by the school district and Buxton police will involve a review of the bus’s video camera, Penna said.

There were about 29 students on board the bus when the incident took place. Penna said the riders were a diverse group of ages and grades, but some were from the elementary school

He said the district will bring in counselors to the elementary school on Friday to help students cope with the trauma of seeing a student dragged along the roadway. He said Buxton Center Elementary School Principal Craig Pendleton, who notified the Buxton School community about the incident, plans to ride the bus with students on Friday.

Penna said Thursday that the bus driver is relatively new but did not release any other information about him. The superintendent, citing privacy concerns, declined to identify the student.

The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration says on its website that children – no exact numbers are given – are injured or killed each year when their clothing or accessories get caught in a school bus’s handrail or door as they exit the bus. Students may fall or be violently dragged by the bus.

The most common piece of clothing that can be snagged on a handrail is a jacket with a drawstring at the waist, but other articles such as scarves or long straps on backpacks can also get caught, according to NTHSA.

NTHSA notes that bus drivers have a lot of things that they need to pay attention to in order to get children to school and home safely.

“There is a lot of activity in and around the bus. The bus driver must be aware of ever-changing traffic conditions, the children on the bus, and the children who enter and exit at each school bus stop. Compounding this already complex situation is the need for the driver to maintain the school bus schedule,” NTHSA states.

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: