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February 6, 2003

Boy takes drive in bus, police say

From: Daily Oklahoman, OK - 06 Feb 2003

By Gregory Potts
The Oklahoman

A student at Western Heights Middle School took a school bus for a drive, and it hit a pickup before overturning, police said Wednesday.

Paul O'Leary of the Emergency Medical Services Authority said John Walters, the driver of the pickup, had a cut on his head and broken ribs but refused to be taken to the hospital. The student seemed to have no significant injuries, he said.

Western Heights School District Assistant Superintendent Lisa McLaughlin said she was "relieved and thankful" the injuries were not more serious.

McLaughlin said she is conducting an investigation of the incident. The student's name was not released.

Oklahoma City police Lt. Mike Hutchcroft said the 12- year-old student took off in the bus about 11 a.m.

Hutchcroft said the student is deaf and mentally handicapped with a mental ability equivalent to a typical kindergarten or first-grade student. The student said he had only wanted to honk the horn, Hutchcroft said. The student communicated with a paramedic in sign language.

"Before he even knew it, he was heading down the road," Hutchcroft said.

He said the student apparently did not know how to stop the bus, which appeared to be totaled.

Police do not plan to file charges, he said.

The bus clipped the pickup near the school on Council Road just south of SW 44, police said. The bus was headed south. The pickup was headed north. The bus continued south, turning right on SW 74. After the turn, the bus toppled onto its side.

O'Leary said the boy's mother arrived quickly on the scene and said she was going to take the youth to the hospital for an examination.

McLaughlin said the incident will prompt an examination of the school's safety policies and practices.

"We need to go back and examine everything that led up to these circumstances," she said.

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