A shot of the one rear axle, minus both tires, of the original bus that was transporting a group of Special Olympics athletes and coaches from Calgary to a training camp weekend in Edmonton June 1. Image: Ponoka County East District Fire Department

Ponoka Lions Club bus rescues Special Olympic athletes

Bus breakdown could have been bad, Ponoka groups come to save the day

For a bus load of athletes from Calgary, a potentially bad incident has instead become a moment to remember.

A group of 37 Special Olympics athletes along with officials, coaches and others were on their way June 1 to a Team Alberta training camp in Edmonton when the bus experienced a problem, leaving the group stranded on the side of the QEII. It turned out the bus had lost two tires from one of the rear axles.

That’s when the kindness of strangers brought a brightness to the group.

Members of the Alberta Integrated Traffic Unit and a Ponoka County East District Fire Department crew were dispatched to the scene on Highway 2 just south of Ponoka around 4:30 p.m. A short time after arriving on scene, it was evident that the large group needed to get to a safer place.

When it became apparent that it would be over an hour for another bus to show up, that’s when East District fire chief Dale Morrow put in a call for some help.

It was the Ponoka Lions Club bus driver Wally Rausch that answered, grabbing the bus and heading out to pick up the group as well as their luggage to bring into Ponoka to wait it out in a safe spot. All of this was accomplished and the group hanging out at Tim Hortons in around 45 minutes.

The situation could have been far worse — as the bus driver was able to set the vehicle safely onto the side of the highway after noticing a strange wobble.

“I was able to settle the bus down on the spring without any real bump or anything, right after I saw one of the tires fly past us and into a nearby field,” the bus driver stated.

“It wasn’t until talking with the Sheriffs that I realized someone else had called 911 minutes earlier and reported a tire coming off the bus and crossing all four lanes of the highway. It’s unbelievable that no one got hit.”

Kelly Edwards, one of the Special Olympic coaches on the bus, had tremendous praise for everyone involved — from their bus driver to the emergency personnel and the Ponoka Lions Club.

“We are all very grateful to everyone. To our bus driver for being able to get us to safety, the Sheriffs and the fire department for helping us and the Ponoka Lions Club for the generosity in getting us somewhere safe,” she said.

“The unofficial motto of the Special Olympics is hurry up and wait, and because the athletes are used to things like waiting for events and medal ceremonies, they all were great during this incident and just rolled with it all and okay with things.”

It wasn’t too long of a wait though, as the group’s new bus arrived around 6:15 p.m. and they were back on the road in about 15 minutes after the luggage and passengers were transferred from the Lions bus.

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