Private Bus Swept Into River Near Huntsville

HUNTSVILLE (KFSM) -- A school bus converted for private use was reported underwater with its lights still on, according to police.

Around 7:30 p.m. Tuesday(Feb. 20), the Huntsville Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue Team was dispatched to a possible water rescue.

“The initial reaction to there is a bus in the water you have kind of that visceral reaction of oh no it`s a bus with kids, but knowing the time of day and that the school hadn`t had any of their buses missing and most of the routes should`ve been finished at that time, we had a pretty good idea that it wasn`t a school bus,” Jeremy Shinn said.

The owner said the bus stalled and got stuck on a low water bridge near Witter area, so they all got out of the bus and left the scene in another vehicle. They did not call police.

Huntsville Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Shinn was one of the fire fighters who was searching for victims for close to three hours. He said this situation could’ve been avoided.

“Anytime we have high water coming it's usually not a mystery that it's about to rain a lot. Everyone has access to the internet and it`s in their pocket all the time and most folks are going to check the weather periodically in the day and especially if we start to have bad weather coming in,” he said.

Shinn said the water here at this low water crossing is usually less than a foot deep, but he says when they arrived last night when they arrived it is around five to even eight feet deep and moving very briskly.

“They certainly could`ve made better choices and avoided this. Everyone makes mistakes and that`s why we have organizations like ours, just in case someone makes a mistake, but if we can avoid those we`d like it,” he said.

The Huntsville Fire Department is the only department in Madison County with a swift water rescue team.

They are hoping to soon have more resources available.

They said they are called up to a dozen swift water rescue a year.

No one was on board when the bus was found underwater, according to Madison County Sherriff's Department.

No injuries were reported and passengers were later found safely in Huntsville.

Huntsville Assistant Fire Chief Jeremy Shinn, Lieutenant Clark and firefighter Nathan Keck return from searching the bus for victims.

The family was located in town after calling friends to come get them, according to police.