School bus driver killed in crash near Woodstock, Ont. remembered as 'a phenomenal man'
Elementary students are among those mourning the loss of a school bus driver killed in a double fatal crash near Woodstock, Ont.
Just before 7 a.m. on Monday, a bus driven by Dave Stewart and an unmarked Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) vehicle driven by Det. Const. Steven Torangeau collided at the intersection of Highway 59 and Oxford County Road 33.
Both drivers were killed.
The London Police Service is investigating the crash.
"[He was] a phenomenal man who was amazing at his job and amazing with the students," said Nicholas Irvine, the parent of a four-year-old who rode Stewart’s bus.
According to an online obituary, Stewart was 71-years-old.
Irvine said he found out about the crash on Monday after noticing some irregularities in the morning schedule.
Irvine said the bus his son was supposed to get on was delayed for around an hour and a half, and when a bus finally did show up, it was a different driver.
He noted that at the end of the day, a different bus driver was still behind the wheel.
“I just ended up calling the school and got confirmation that it was my son’s bus -- it was bus two -- that got in the accident, and that was as much as they could release. But, even that was enough to know everything and who it was,” said Irvine.
Irvine said his son adored Stewart and would talk to him each morning.
“Our son’s a little bit behind in his speech, but every morning Michael would go up and go ‘Hi Dave,’” Irvine said.
Irvine said Stewart always had the patience to try and understand what he was trying to say, spending a moment each morning with his son.
“Everybody in this neighbourhood knew Dave. All the kids loved him. He was phenomenal.”
“He was always above and beyond. He loved all his students that drove with him on the bus, [and] all the students loved him. I’ve talked to a few parents on the street between last night and this morning, and everyone is still in shock," Irvine said.
According to Irvine, there was not a bad word that could be said about Stewart.
Irvine said he took his son out for fast food to break the news of Stewart’s death.
“We ended up showing him a picture of the bus and saying ‘that was your bus’ and then we showed him a picture of Dave [and said] ‘Dave is gone, Dave has passed on.”’
Irvine said his son has experience with death after the passing of his brother two years ago.
“It’s still hard to explain to a two year old or four year old, but a little bit of experience is better than none, and he grasped the concept of Dave is gone, and once he comprehended what we were trying to say he lost it and started crying,” Irvine said.
As for the next steps, Irvine said he wants Stewart’s family to know the entire community is with them and everyone feels horrible about what happened.
“Moving on, currently we don’t even want our son to bus. We know it’s not the bus’ or Dave’s fault, we just don’t know yet, but we’re not comfortable sending him on the bus for at least the next week,” Irvine said.
A note from the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) to parents was sent home following the crash.
"Dear Parents and Caregivers,
This email is to update the school about a reported traumatic event in the community.
At approximately 7:00 a.m. this morning there was a collision involving a school bus and a vehicle in Oxford County. There were no students on the bus at the time of the collision.
Both drivers, including the school bus driver were killed in the collision. OPP are not releasing the name of the school bus driver out of respect to the family’s privacy.
This type of event impacts everyone differently. We have attached some information for parents and caregivers on typical responses youth have when they experience such stress and what may be helpful in supporting them through this.
A Traumatic Event Response Team is available to offer support to students. If your child requires additional support, please reach out to the school directly.
This is a very difficult time for all of us and our thoughts and condolences are with the families.
Thames Valley District School Board"
STEWART'S FAMILY RELEASES STATEMENT
Stewart’s daughters put together a statement on Tuesday to describe their dad.
They said he was a well-rounded family man who loved spending time with his wife, and having tea parties with his granddaughters. They added that he always had a smile on his face and loved driving the school bus and all the kids who rode it.
He also loved working in the garage with his grandson, the family said.
-With files from CTV News London