Ashley Ringstaff’s son, Jason, had just left for school when he called her to let her know he might die.
As Fox 7 News reports, on October 16, Jason was the first student picked up by bus driver Nathan Deyoung. It had been raining for more than 24 hours in their hometown of Leander, Texas, and conditions were bad. A nearby bridge was already covered with water.
Deyong had avoided the bridge the previous day, but for some reason chose to take that route — possibly because the bus was running late.
With 12-year-old Jason the only student aboard, the bus driver drove around a barricade that warned the road was closed and attempted to drive over a flooded bridge. Within moments, the bus had been swept into the creek by the rushing water.
That’s when a terrified Jason called his mother.
Ashley later wrote on Facebook that, “At 8:26 am I got a call from Jason in hysterics. Telling me he loves me and that he is scared and thinking he was going to die. I hope no one ever has to listen to their child or loved one preparing to die because of a stupid decision that should never have happened.”
The angry mom told Fox 7 that it was hard to tell what had happened when she first answered the phone:
“I couldn’t understand him immediately. All I heard was crying and screaming and then he was just like, ‘The bus got swept off the bridge,’ and I’m like, ‘What?!'”
The Leander Police Department has released video from Deyoung’s attempt to cross the flooded bridge. In the Facebook post, the Department noted that they hoped the video would help people understand the dangers of driving through a low water crossing during a flood.
At 8:26 am I got a call from Jason in hysterics. Telling me he loves me and that he is scared and thinking he was going…
Ashley said that watching the video of the crossing looked to her like, “a suicide mission.” Even now, she says thinking about the driver crossing the flooded bridge leaves her shaking with anger. She told Fox 7:
“What I feel like, it’s like you tried to kill my son. That’s how I feel. I feel like he tried to kill my son because he could’ve avoided that whole thing.”
Jason and Deyoung had to be rescued from the bus. Jason had no physical injuries, though his mother says he has been having nightmares.
Deyoung was arrested and charged with failure to obey warning signs and endangering a child. He has been released on a $10,000 bond.
Ashley warned others on Facebook that it doesn’t take much water to sweep away a big vehicle: “Water isn’t forgiving and has more force than most people think. Just because you think you can make it across a low water crossing, doesn’t mean that you will. It’s not worth it, ever.”
As the Leander Police wrote, most cars can be swept away in as little as two feet of water:
The biggest factor in these circumstances is buoyancy. For each foot the water rises up the side of the vehicle, the vehicle displaces 1,500 lbs. of water. In effect, the vehicle weighs 1,500 lbs. less for each foot the water rises. Just two feet of water can carry away most vehicles. TURN AROUND – DON’T DROWN is not just a catchy phrase, but potentially a life-saving reminder.
The school district plans to reevaluate potentially hazardous bus routes as a result of the incident.