Bus accident brought out giving nature of Quincy Valley folks
When a bus transporting some of the University of Washington marching band members from Seattle to Pullman on Nov. 22 fell on its side, it was to be an uncanny example of the spirit of Thanksgiving: the natives helping the strangers.
The accident occurred to the west of George in the early evening with the weather turning for the worse as people were enjoying one of the best days of the year.
Kent Bacon, who helped deliver food to the rescued students during the aftermath, said that “Quincy pulls together when needed.”
The Thanksgiving evening of 2018 was one such time of need.
“The Grainery donated sandwiches and chips. What if it had been our kids out there somewhere – we would hope someone would help,” Bacon said.
Grant County Deputy Chief of Fire District 3, Tony Leibelt, who was one of the first to arrive on the scene of the accident, recalls:
“When I arrived, two deputy sheriffs were already there. It seemed everybody was out of the bus. There were 10 students on the ground and others were helping them. All the passengers had climbed out the front window of the bus.”
Leibelt began organizing transportation, by ambulance and other vehicles. Some students needed hospital care, others were uninjured. Students were sent to Quincy Valley Medical Center, to Columbia Basin Hospital and Moses Lake for medical care. Out of the 280 students on the trip, there were no fatalities.
“I ordered a school bus from George Elementary School,” Leibelt said. “By approximately 6:30 p.m. the students were settled (at the school premises) and people were serving them food. The word must have got around through social media. There were burritos, soup and sandwiches. The rescued students seemed calm and grateful.”
Once the students had been taken care of, it was time to see to their belongings. The overturned bus still held musical instruments and students’ belongings, which were secondary to saving human lives.
David and Georgia Day stepped in to transport the baggage and instruments to their owners.
“My wife works at the George Elementary School as kitchen supervisor. We were instructed to use the food service van to haul items to the students, at that time both in George and Moses Lake,” David Day said. “When we got to the scene of the accident, there were still State Patrol personnel there and they handed us things from the bus. Looking at it, I was surprised nobody was badly hurt.”
The Days made sure items got delivered to their owners, finally finishing their task at midnight in Moses Lake.
Lisa Karstetter learned about the incident through a Washington State Patrol notification first, and later phone calls came in to notify her. She didn’t think for long, but jumped into action. First, off to a grocery store to purchase some food. Once she delivered that to the George Elementary School, she realized the chips and frozen burritos were not nearly enough.
“I thought it was one bus that had rolled over,” Karstetter said. “When I got to the school, I was looking at almost 300 students. Together with my mother, we went to Subway and ordered 50 sandwiches – my mother was wrapping them up as soon as the employee there could make them.”
She didn’t stop at the food delivery: later on, when those students who had been taken to hospitals and had to be transported to Moses Lake to the hotel where everybody was staying for the night, she again offered her assistance.
“I picked up four of the youth from Ephrata and drove them to Moses Lake. One thing I kept hearing throughout the evening from the students was how amazingly quickly the help arrived and how well taken care of they felt.”
Karstetter pointed out that the combined Quincy and George area is geographically small and people know each other. They also help each other – and strangers, as well.
On Nov. 30, the 19 organizations involved in responding to the incident held an evaluation meeting.
“We had 35 people in attendance,” Leibelt said. “We looked back at what went well and what didn’t – overall, we are pleased.”
Leibelt mentioned a George Elementary School bus rollover seven years ago that was a learning experience that possibly made this year’s Thanksgiving accident the successful rescue operation that it was.
Efficiency aside, humanity also counted. The trauma of being in an accident in the darkening, worsening weather does not go away as quickly as a sandwich is consumed. It lingers in memory. What also stays in a victim’s mind is gratefulness for the assistance, that someone cared, someone helped.
The students have now returned home, but their parents keep on saying thank you. Debby Kooy, George Community Hall board secretary, has been amazed at the tangible abundance of the gratitude.
“The Husky parents keep sending donations to George Community Hall. We have accumulated about $1,000 from them,” Kooy said with delight.
The money is desperately needed to rebuild the roof of the Community Hall. Find the donation page on Facebook or send a check to George Community Hall, P.O. Box 5064, George, WA 98824.
Kent Bacon, one of the local helpers, summed up the local effort: “What goes around, comes around.” And so the good deeds done on the day of Thanksgiving will keep on giving.
Read more about the bus accident and response by clicking here.
By Jaana Hatton, For the Post-Register