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Fiery school bus crash leaves a small town stunned — one of the victims was just learning how to drive Video/Omaha World-Herald
Video/Omaha World-Herald

After backing into a ditch on Tuesday, an Iowa school bus burst into flames and killed both individuals on board.

Only the school bus driver and one student were on the bus when the fire started around 7 a.m. on Tuesday morning in Oakland, Iowa — just 35 miles east of Omaha, Nebraska. The bus reportedly caught fire after it backed out of a farm driveway and crashed into a nearby ditch, engulfing the vehicle in flames by the time firefighters, who were called to the scene by the homeowner and parent of the child on board, arrived.

Once the flames were extinguished, authorities discovered the remains of two people inside the bus, who were later identified as the driver Donnie Hendricks, 74, and student Megan Klindt, 16, who lived at the farm. According to a resident of the town, the driver had worked in the profession “for a long, long time.”

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Initial reports indicated that as many as 20 people were on the bus at the time of the incident, but the local sheriff’s office has since clarified those reports to suggest that only Hendricks and Klindt were on board when the fire started. The Riverside Community School District, which is home to about 700 students, has postponed basketball games scheduled for Tuesday evening, and grief counselors have been made available to help students and faculty cope with the tragedy.

Superintendent Timothy Mitchell said Riverside “suffered a tragedy when we lost a student and an employee in a school bus accident. Our hearts go out to their families and loved ones. The investigation into the cause of the accident is underway, and we are cooperating with law enforcement as they do their work.”

“The entire community of the Riverside Community School District is deeply saddened by the events of this morning,” he continued in a statement. “We would like to thank everyone who has offered assistance. Once again, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone who is impacted by this tragic event.”

The cause of the fire has not yet been determined, but the Iowa state fire marshal will reportedly be investigating the incident.

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