AKRON, Ohio—Adam Fugget awoke at 8:13 a.m. to the sound of a school bus crashing into his apartment complex near the bottom of Kent Street, a sloping brick road in Akron’s Goodyear Heights neighborhood.
He cut his hand on a piece of broken glass, prying open the bus’ door to see if anyone was hurt.
Inside, he found only abandoned book bags.
No children. No driver.
The bus had been parked uphill outside Middlebury Academy, a grade K-8 charter school, moments earlier. A safety drill had gone awry, and the bus began rolling backward.
The driver — Laura Zborowski, 51, of Hazelwood Avenue in Akron — died, while reportedly saving a child who had jumped from the rear exit of the bus only to land in the vehicle’s path.
When Fugget learned of Zborowski’s death, he knew the cut on his hand paled in comparison.
“She’s definitely a hero,” Fugget, 29, said, standing outside his apartment door as a tow truck and Akron police dealt with the aftermath of the accident Tuesday morning.
The bus was owned and operated by Petermann, a Cincinnati-based transportation company that services 1,300 Akron charter and private-school students.
Matt Gaugler, general manager for the company’s operations in Akron, said an internal investigation is being conducted and Petermann is working with police to determine how the bus, apparently parked for a portion of the safety drill, began rolling.
“That will be the single, biggest element of the investigation,” Gaugler said.
It was not immediately clear if an emergency brake failed or if the bus was not properly secured.
According to Akron police, Zborowski had helped about 40 children exit a side entrance as part of the evacuation drill. The children then reboarded the bus to perform a rear exit when the bus began to roll.
A 10-year-old girl remained on the bus when it began to move. She jumped to the pavement and was pushed out of harm’s way by Zborowski, who then tried to board the bus to re-engage its brakes, police said.
She was pulled under the bus, however, and dragged an estimated 40 feet. The bus then rolled downhill another 40 feet before skipping off an apartment complex and crashing into a tree on the other side of the road.
Zborowski was pronounced dead on arrival at Summa Akron City Hospital.
No children were injured, though police and witnesses said there might be lasting trauma from the experience.
Gaugler said Petermann will continue to transport students to Middlebury Academy and other Akron-area charter and private schools. He added that support will be offered to Zborowski’s family.
A woman at Zborowski’s residence said they had no comment.
Zborowski only recently had moved to Hazelwood Avenue and spent several days there this summer remodeling the residence. She had lived in a duplex on Congo Avenue in East Akron since 2007, with two huskies and a mixed-breed dog, a neighbor said.
Administrators at Middlebury Academy referred calls to the school’s operator, Cambridge Education Group. That phone call was not returned.
©2014 Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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