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Sheriff: School bus driver had medical emergency before bus plunged into river

Two girls were thrown from several rows back through the front windshield and into the Maple River.

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An Enderlin school bus rests in the Maple River after plunging off an embankment.
Matt Henson / WDAY
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LEONARD, N.D. — He passed out at the wheel.

That was the final conclusion by the Cass County Sheriff's Office as to why an Enderlin school bus went off the road and plunged into the Maple River on Friday, Sept. 23.

The school bus with seven children on board went off the road and plunged 12 feet over an embankment and landed in the river.

The sheriff's office says it started as Andy Bunn came down a hill and passed out at the wheel.

The 62-year-old bus driver told police he does not remember crossing the bridge.

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"He does not remember any of those things, trying to take any sort of avoidance maneuvers or anything like that. He doesn't remember much after traveling down the hill," explained Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner.

Bunn told investigators he remembers hitting bumps that he thought were gopher mounds in the pasture on the other side of the road.

The next thing he remembers is his bus sitting in the Maple River.

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"Then he came back to after the bus had come to rest, and immediately did some observations to see what had occurred and contacted to get help to the scene," Jahner said.

Two girls were thrown through the front windshield. One was tossed seven rows forward and the other six rows.

Both landed in the Maple River which was about 3 feet deep. They crawled to the river bank until help arrived.

Bunn and all seven students went to the hospital. All have since been released.

"There was no indication that there was any prior knowledge that something had happened medically, through those different interviews, it appeared everyone was caught by surprise when that vehicle left the roadway," Jahner said.

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Investigators determined the bus was going about 35 mph at the time of the crash, well below the posted speed limit.

The sheriff sent the case file over to the state's attorney who agreed no charges would be filed.

"The incident was the result of an unexpected medical emergency (...) the bus crash was not the result of any criminal behavior (...) this was an unfortunate accident," wrote Assistant Cass County State's Attorney Paul Emerson.

Bunn has been a bus driver for 30 years, and has been driving this route for the past five years.

Jahner says Bunn's driver's license and North Dakota Department of Transportation medical card were current, and he had just been tested by the DOT.

"We will be filing for a retest in this situation. Typically when we have something like this, a medical situation, we want to make sure that person is OK to be on the roadway in the future," explained Jahner.

Monday evening, Oct. 3, Sheriff Jahner visited privately with all the families who had children on the bus to go over the findings of the investigation.

Matt Henson is an Emmy award-winning reporter/photographer/editor for WDAY. Prior to joining WDAY in 2019, Matt was the main anchor at WDAZ in Grand Forks for four years. He was born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia and attended college at Lyndon State College in northern Vermont, where he was recognized twice nationally, including first place, by the National Academy for Arts and Science for television production. Matt enjoys being a voice for the little guy. He focuses on crimes and courts and investigative stories. Just as often, he shares tear-jerking stories and stories of accomplishment. Matt enjoys traveling to small towns across North Dakota and Minnesota to share their stories. He can be reached at mhenson@wday.com and at 610-639-9215. When he's not at work (rare) Matt resides in Moorhead and enjoys spending time with his daughter, golfing and attending Bison and Sioux games.
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