Bad buses come in threes

Dawson City's school buses are lemons. In December, one of Takhini Transport's drivers was fired after refusing to drive a bus that was leaking diesel.

Dawson City’s school buses are lemons.

In December, one of Takhini Transport’s drivers was fired after refusing to drive a bus that was leaking diesel.

A few weeks later, a bus full of children was about to turn onto the highway when there was a loud explosion and a big red flash.

The kids were evacuated.

And the bus ended up in the shop.

Then, on Wednesday, one of the buses died in front of the school after classes let out.

The driver couldn’t get it going again.

The kids had to take turns going home on the one remaining bus.

The dead bus ended up on a flatbed, and was towed to a local garage.

“The mechanic came out, but couldn’t get it running,” said Cyndy Dekuysscher, Education’s director of finance systems and administration.

In the garage, it was put on a trickle charger overnight, but the batteries didn’t take the charge, she said.

New batteries are on their way, said Dekuysscher.

The Education Department is not worried about the state of Dawson’s school buses, she added.

“Even with new vehicles, you can have problems,” said Dekuysscher.

“This was simply a stalled bus.”

The bus should be working again by next week, she said.

The bus that had the minor explosion a few weeks ago “backfired,” she said, in an earlier interview with the News.

“Sometimes there’s a flash out the back,” she added.

“These things happen, especially in cold weather.”

But that bus ended up in the shop too.

It also needed a part replaced, said Dekuysscher at the time.

Takhini Transport’s Dawson buses have a lot of problems, according to former driver Tiss Clark.

Clark drove streetcars and buses for the Toronto Transit Commission for 11 years, before taking the job in Dawson.

And she knows drivers are responsible for the safety of their passengers.

Under responsibility of the driver, the Yukon’s Education Act states:

“No driver shall drive with students as passengers until satisfied that the contracted vehicle is in safe mechanical condition.”

According to Clark, the Dawson buses had many mechanical issues:

The two-way radios – a safety feature – hadn’t been working on the Dawson buses since October.

One bus had problems with billowing smoke and had to be shut down and restarted periodically to mitigate the problem.

Another had starter problems.

But the leaking diesel really worried Clark.

When she complained, she was fired.

“We live in the North, things freeze and thaw,” said Education’s student transportation officer Dea Hrebien, of the leaking bus.

“Keeping up with maintenance is a constant,” she said at the time.

Takhini Transport has repeatedly refused comment on its Dawson bus problems.

Contact Genesee Keevil at gkeevil@yukon-news.com.

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