George, Washington — A bus accident in Central Washington changed many lives on Thanksgiving Day, including Battle Ground City Councilor, Shane Bowman, his family, and the small town of George.
Moments after bus three in a six-bus caravan transporting University of Washington Marching Band and Spirit Squad members to Pullman slid and rolled on the icy highway, Bowman said he heard the sirens of fire trucks and ambulances passing through George.
“I grew up in Central Washington four miles from George, we were visiting for Thanksgiving, working outside and we heard some police sirens and ambulances, so we assumed there was an accident,” said Bowman. “We finished our work and pulled up the news and learned that a UW band bus rolled over just six miles from us. My son said we should go see if we they need any help.”
So they did.
Within moments, the Bowman’s found out they were triaging victims at George Elementary School. So, they called the fire chief and asked if they needed anything.
“They said they needed food and blankets,” said Bowman. “We rounded up everything we had and headed down there. All the buses were there, five in total. So, we just took in everything that we had, we called a few friends to gather food, and we went to the gas station and cleared out all the hot pockets and burritos we could buy. We bought a couple hundred of them.”
Using the tiny school’s kitchen, they heated up the food, put out the snacks, and watched local community members bring in their delicious Thanksgiving food.
“We fed all of them,” said Bowman. “We had enough water and people showed up with everything — soups and enchiladas. Everything.”
From 6:15 pm until the UW buses departed at 10:30 pm, Bowman’s family, including his son, Trey, and his parents, Alan and Sue (and a total crew of about 10) stayed for the duration. Another 15-20 families came in and dropped off food.
“We’d been down there quite a while, and a whole bunch of food came in — the kids just snacked on anything we had,” said Bowman. “Then a bunch of people brought in more food, blankets and mattresses. A couple even came in from Wenatchee on those icy roads. We thought they were going to spend the night at the school at first. It was chaos, but I was impressed with how professional everyone was. The UW students and staff are incredible. They had a lot to deal with. No complaining from anyone. The whole group was very professional.”
Bowman also got to spend time with Union High School graduate, Tommy Strassenberg, who used to live in Battle Ground. Strassenberg was a phenomenal wrestler who is now part of the UW Cheer team.
Everyone was equally impressed with the first responders — especially given the resource constraints an accident this size causes in rural Washington. Bowman said each little jurisdiction has ambulances, but they don’t have the resources here to deal with something this big.
The UW students are dealing with a spectrum of injuries — from sore backs and lacerations to broken bones and concussions, however, Bowman said it could have been a lot worse.
“I spoke with the bus driver of bus 4 who said he nearly hit bus 3,” he said. “A second collision would have made things a lot worse. We’re very grateful there were no fatalities. There was a lot of ice on the road. We have four-wheel drive pickups and the roads were slick. It was bad out there. There was freezing rain and sleet for about an hour.
“Regarding the response, I don’t expect anything different. I was in Battle Ground when we had the tornado come through, and we had the same thing there. People just stepped up, and put aside all their differences, and that’s what was cool. All the Fire Departments here are volunteers. It’s refreshing to see everyone help out.”
The UW students spent the night at Moses Lake, and will likely return to Seattle tomorrow morning. They won’t attend the Apple Cup, which was their destination.