SAGUACHE COUNTY— A new Center Schools Award has been created for a school bus driver who is not employed with the school after the driver successfully avoided a potentially scary situation with a bus carrying many Center students this April.
The event created the Powers Heroic Award, given for the first time to bus driver Glen Powers. “This is a first to a person who has shown great courage and calm during a traumatic situation that involved Center students and staff and wasn’t a school employee,” Center Schools longtime teacher and middle school/high School RTI coordinator Susan Banning said last week. “This award is in appreciation from the students, staff, school, parents and community for excellence at keeping us safe.”
The event leading to the award occurred on April 17, 2018, when a blinding dust storm blew through Saguache County. According to Colorado State Patrol (CSP) officials, the poor driving conditions that day resulted in a seven-car pile-up along Highway 17 south of Saguache County Road G.
Two Saguache County residents and a Rio Grande County resident were transported to San Luis Valley Regional Medical Center with minor injuries.
The accident occurred when the two lead vehicles stopped owing to zero visibility because of blowing dirt. Those behind them then crashed into the second vehicle and each other’s vehicles. While the initial story quoted CSP as saying no citations were issued, the story behind the story was never reported. There was no mention of a school bus being involved in the chain-reaction collision.
No one knew the situation could have been much worse if not for the quick actions of one school bus driver. The following “rest of the story” was related recently by Banning, who found herself on a school bus that afternoon with 42 students and four staff on board.
“That day Skoglund Middle School students and Center staff were going to Crestone for a play presentation by the Colorado College. Marty Slayden visiting lecturer, with the Department of Spanish and Portuguese and her students presented two plays, Spanish songs, dances and games.
On the morning of the 17th, the Colorado College bus driver, Glen Powers, came to pick up the Center students.
“We had too many students, so a van followed with four additional students. The drive had already been bad coming over because of the yellow dirt, wind and dust. On the drive back, we encountered manure, seeds, dirt and limited visibility.
“It took 1.5 hours to get to Crestone. Then we spent 2.5 hours there with the plays and activities which finished with an excellent buffet at the Desert Sage Restaurant. I meet Glen at lunch when I dined with him. We discussed the terrible driving conditions of the previous week when he had brought down a team to Adams State University and how he had worked at Cripple Creek for years. He had a lot of experience.
“The return trip, which was to end with us arriving at Hooper Pool, was a repeat of the morning drive with a grey dust, wind and dirt. There were times of zero or limited visibility, so Glen was taking the drive slowly and safely.
“Somewhere between Road G and Road C, suddenly four vehicles and two semi-trucks loomed up and in a split-second Glen was hitting the brakes and splitting the gap, cutting into the northbound lane while other vehicles were heading for the ditch as well as the van behind us. It was a terrifying few seconds.
“Glen’s quick thinking, calmness, experience and skill saved all of us from serious injury. Two of the adults were pregnant and sitting in the front rows so the impact could have been life-threatening. There was damage to the wheel-well and the fender of the last vehicle that was stopped but nothing compared to the possible outcome.
“We were stranded at the crash site for over 80 minutes during which time parents were trying to be assured that we were all safe. When it was determined by the state patrol and firefighters that we would have to go back to Road G, Glen backed up on Highway 17 between a semi and another vehicle. He kept the large activity bus on the road and executed this skill.
“It was amazing as we looked at the other vehicle that had been in the crash after us. We drove down Road G and finally broke out of the dust, dirt and wind to clear skies and a successful arrival at Center almost three hours after leaving Crestone.”
Powers receives his award
The presentation was held June 19 in the Colorado College Facilities Services building which is the Van Briggle Pottery Company, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Those attending the ceremony were Glen Powers, driver/automotive technician; Bob Winkelblech, transportation supervisor; Chris Coulter, associate vice president, facilities services; Will Wise, deputy director, facilities services; Sarah Biacan, administrative assistant; Courtney Greis, administrative assistant and Nolan Keale, driver/automotive technician.
“While I am appreciative of all the kind words and the award. The teachers on the bus were the ones instrumental in keeping the students calm and cared for,” Powers said. “One of them went outside the bus to help one of the victims of the original accident get out of the weather. Last but not least were the real heroes, the first responders who spent hours out in the elements helping people.”
Colorado College Transportation Supervisor Bob Winkelblech commended Powers for his driving skills. “I’ve worked with Glen for over 15 years and was delighted to see him receive this award,” Winkelblech said. “He takes a great deal of pride in his work and is a very skilled driver. Transporting someone else’s child is the most precious cargo you can ever carry. Thanks to Glen’s alert driving and quick response, everyone made it home safely.”
"Hard times don›t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the hero within us is revealed."
— Bob Riley