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Swim team showed real courage at accident scene

Feb 12, 2014 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff Writer

On a cold trip home in a school bus, a bus driver, two swim coaches and members of the Riverton High School boys swim team had no idea what was just over the next hill near Midwest on Saturday afternoon.

The swimmers and their supporters had just completed a day's worth of competition in Gillette. The team also swam the day before in Sheridan.

The boys had proved that they were ready for their swimming races. And they were also ready for what was now just a few hundred yards away. They just didn't know it yet.

The road report had called for roads that were slick in spots with blowing snow, according to bus driver Terry Grant.

But limited visibility had quickly turned to whiteout conditions, as can happen during Wyoming winters. Although the bus had slowed, what looked like a grey blob appeared in front of Grant.

"I stomped on the breaks, turned the steering wheel, but the other car was too close," Grant said.

They grey blob was an 18-wheeler that had just been in a head on accident with a car. Although the roads were slick, Grant tried to aim the bus between the crashed car and the semi's trailer that had jackknifed in the road.

"I barely clipped the car," Grant said.

But it is what happened next that makes you understand that when Riverton's bus driver, Riverton's coaches, and Riverton's athletes needed courage, they had plenty in reserve. When our guys were needed to help others in need, they stepped up.

Riverton swim coach Jay Dayton said Grant, a 23-year veteran of the military, and a bus driver for the past four years, took command. He insisted that the swimmers stay on the bus with one adult at all times.

Grant and Riverton assistant coach Shawn Rivera went to help the injured driver of the car and his son remove the airbags that had been deployed, then get to safety.

But cars were still coming over the icy, snowy hill. The first car drove to the right into the borrow pit and up the hill into the snow, avoiding Rivera and the injured drivers.

But five seconds later, another 18-wheeler was barreling toward the wreck. It couldn't stop in time and T-boned the car, Grant said.

"Shawn told the people in the car to hang on and he started running," Grant said. Grant jumped on the running board of the truck to avoid injury.

In the next 30 seconds, another school bus, two more cars and a pickup with a trailer came over the hill, Grant said, unable to stop, but missing the car that had by then had been rammed off the road after being hit a third time.

Finally a car going the opposite direction had cleared the hill and stopped traffic.

Rivera and Grant plodded through the mangled mess. First they removed the driver, and then Rivera and Dayton helped the son get out of the car to safety.

The injured were helped on to Riverton's bus, which was equipped with a handicap lift and had a reserve wheelchair on board.

Riverton's swimmers, some of whom had first aid training as lifeguards and scouts, according to Grant, then went to work.

They helped fashion splints for broken limbs and provided comfort to the scared son.

"Everybody had something broken. The kids helped carry the injured to the ambulance," Grant said.

Riverton superintendent Terry Snyder said that the bus driver, coaches and athletes made great judgment and acted with maturity, and that the actions taken by Riverton's staff and athletes helped.

Guys from Riverton, winners for sure, and courageous enough to help, potentially saving lives, in the most important event of their weekend.

Have a great sports week. Go Big Red!

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