A local family has been asking questions about driver etiquette as it relates to bus drivers for the Sun West School Division and is speaking out in the hopes that another tragedy will be avoided in the future after their family dog was killed.
On Wednesday, May 19, the family pet of the Annala family, who live on a farm near Milden, was run over by a bus driver who the family says "routinely" is speeding on the roads near their home. Rochelle Annala, reaching out to The Outlook, says that in her communications with the school division, she and the entire tragic situation were treated unfairly by Sun West's transportation manager, Rick McKeil.
Annala's message reads as follows with her version of events. It has been edited for brevity and clarity:
"We live rurally by Milden. We had an incident happen today that was tragic. Of course tragic things happen all the time on farms and we are well aware of that. We have a school bus driver that drives past our home incredibly fast every day. He has been reported by our neighbors and we had slow down signs put up on his account. We have grandchildren and pets that get close to or on the road at times. Well we try to keep them off and away we knew it could very well be one of them that he hit someday.
Today was unfortunately that day. I was leaving the yard and our little dog had a bright blue vest on him that we put on him when he goes outside. I met the school bus flying by about a mile away. Then a call from my husband saying the school bus just killed our pet. I immediately turned around expecting to see the school bus on the road. He didn’t stop. He slowed down after he hit the dog and kept going. After we dealt with the dog I called the school board transportation department and left a message with Rick Mckeil letting him know that the driver didn’t stop. We then went to the school (2:30 pm) to talk to the driver before the kids were out of school. When we approached the bus the driver put on his mask then answered his phone. Rick had called him before he called us back to make sure the driver was okay and to let him know that he wasn’t speeding legally.
We informed the driver that he hit the dog first he said he knew that he hit him but decided that he would stop on his way home if the dog was still in the middle of the road and apologize then. We said we knew that our dog should not have been on the road so it wasn’t all his fault whatsoever but that usually people do stop when they accidentally kill a pet so we wouldn’t find him that way. My husband says that he sees him driving very fast down our road every day and would appreciate it if he slowed down in order to see animals and children. When we got home I called the transportation dept back.
This is where this story goes horrible. Rick answered and well he already knew what I was calling about because he had been informed he asked me what I wanted. I told him that our dog had been hit and we wanted to let him know the driver although being early to pick up the kids didn’t stop when he knew he hit the dog. Rick said he did nothing legally wrong. That the driver didn’t kill the dog I killed the dog. I said what kind of person says that to someone who just lost a pet an hour before and he said a dog lover. I said he definitely does not sound like a dog lover and he said that I killed our dog because I was not taking care of it when it was hit. I said we know he didn’t do anything illegal but as an employer myself I would expect my employees to also act morally not just legally while at the job. He repeated that I killed our dog and I am not a good dog owner.
At the end of my call with Rick I told him I would have just appreciated a I’m sorry this happened to you today, we will look into it and make sure the driver is aware to slow down around your farm. But I didn’t get even a I’m sorry about your pet, just told that I killed my little dog that we love so much. I think the school board could have a little compassion when these things arise not acting the way he did.
We would like to see some small article about their reaction to it in the paper so maybe it can change the outcome for another family."
Reaching out to Sun West for more on this story, Mike Fedyk, a communications and marketing coordinator, provided this statement and extended sympathies to the family on the loss of their pet:
"Recently the family pet of the Rochelle Annala family of the Milden area was accidentally struck and killed by a Sun West school bus. Fortunately no students were on the bus. Sun West understands that the loss of a family pet in this manner is heart breaking and extends our deepest sympathies to the Annala family. Our bus driver also feels very bad about the incident and our compassion goes out to the pet owner’s family and to the bus driver."
It has since been discovered that Rick McKeil is retiring, having informed Sun West of his intention to retire prior to this incident.