LAFAYETTE, Ind. (WLFI) - On the interstate or any road in Indiana, wearing a seat belt is a requirement. It may be inconvenient, but it could save your life. But when riding on a school bus, the law is different. But fortunately, when an area school bus flipped on the interstate this spring, most were wearing seat belts.
In a special series, News 18 explores why most children are not strapped in while going to and from school and what it will take to give everyone a safer ride.
"I saw a road sign flying by. I saw dirt clods flying by. At that moment, I braced myself," explained Jolie Rahn.
She couldn't prepare herself for what was about to happen.
"I felt the front left end of the bus, kind of, dig into the median and that's when it began its roll," said Rahn.
PHOTOS | LAFAYETTE SCHOOL BUS CRASH ON I-65
Just moments earlier, a group of Greater Lafayette Area Special Services (GLASS) students, teachers and chaperones was heading home from a fun-filled day at the Indianapolis Zoo. Rahn was sitting near her 6-year-old daughter, Murphy, resting her eyes after the long day. She suddenly felt the Lafayette School Corporation (LSC) bus fishtail and all she saw was a flash of white.
"I quickly closed my eyes again because I didn't want to see what was going on. Really, I did not want to see that. As soon as I closed my eyes again, we fishtailed to the right again, and we must of fishtailed a couple more times," described Rahn.
Rahn said she felt the bus shudder, then could only hold on as it completely flipped in the I-65 median. She said it all happened in slow motion. In that moment, she noticed something eerie: silence.
"Nobody on the bus screamed," she said. "I never heard anybody. Maybe they were saying things, but I just never heard it."
Rahn immediately checked to see whether she was seriously injured. Then she checked on Murphy.
"She had folded herself in half, like a clam. So it was kind of hard to assess her, but I heard her crying and she was moving, so I felt she was fine, just by observation and being her mother, I could tell that she was alright," said Rahn.
Rahn and Murphy, along with four more special needs children and six more adults, were taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Rahn said seat belts are the only reason the injuries weren't worse.
"We could of have some serious injuries. And maybe possibly a fatality or two," said Rahn.
Superintendent Les Huddle said all the children and most of the adults were wearing seat belts. He agreed, seat belts played a key role in keeping the injuries minor. He said the crash caused the corporation to rework its field trip procedures. Now, adults will need to provide emergency contact information, too.
"If that emergency contact was one of the other riders on the bus, we didn't have that second and third person in line that we needed to contact," explained Huddle.
Plus, Huddle said LSC now has an emergency kit filled with contact information that the responding administrator can take with them.
State police believe a white box truck or van forced the bus off I-65. The driver did not stop. But Rahn will never forget the people who did stop to help.
"I guess they were just focused and then they had to do something because this was just totally unreal," said Rahn.
Unreal to know that despite these images, seat belts kept this a safe ride for her and her daughter.
So why don't all school buses have seat belts? Wednesday in part two of "A Safer Ride," News 18 speaks with lawmakers about why it hasn't happened yet and if the LSC crash has moved lawmakers forward on the issue.
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