Colorado mother who lost son in bus crash applauds NTSB seat belt recommendation

DENVER -- School bus fatalities are rare but they happen.

Last week a fifth-grader and teacher were killed when a school bus collided with a dump truck in New Jersey.

The National Transportation Safety Board is now recommending changes to try and keep kids safe. For the first time ever, the NTSB is recommending that all new school buses come equipped with seat belts.

For Rose Swenby, this week's announcement opened up a floodgate of emotions.

"Every time I see a bus overturned it's just really hard,"  Swenby said. "It's a long time coming."

Swenby's 11-year-old son Kevin died in a school bus crash in St. Vrain Canyon in 1989. Kevin and his classmates were returning from a school camping trip when the brakes on their bus gave out. The bus crashed. Kevin was thrown through the windshield.

"It changed our lives. The anniversary is a week from Saturday and for some reason this year it's looming large," she said.

In the years after Kevin's death, Swenby fought to create a law mandating seat belts on buses, convinced it would have saved her son's life.

"Without question he would have survived that accident," Swenby said.

However, the bill received little support, in part because the NTSB said buses were safe without seat belts.

"It really bothered me. When we went to the legislature it never even got out of committee," Swenby said.

Several school districts have begun purchasing school buses with seat belts. In 2016 Denver Public Schools purchased buses partially equipped with three point seat belts. Those seats are typically occupied only by pre-school and kindergarten students.

While she knows she'll never get her son back, Swenby is hopeful the recommendation from the NTSB will finally lead to a change that will save lives.

I really feel a sense of happiness that they're doing it now. I mean there's no time like the present. This is Kevin's legacy. This is what he has done," said Swenby.

 

AlertMe