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'The world exploded': Freakish accident sends deer through window of team bus

Jan 2, 2013 - By Randy Tucker, Staff Writer

The last day of November 2012 will be a night the girls on the Wind River High School basketball team will never forget.

As they rode the bus back from Burlington to their motel in Worland they heard head coach Justin Walker shout, "She's gonna hit us!"

An instant later a window just behind the driver's seat burst and what remained of a mule deer doe flew into pieces all over the front of the bus. Driver Russell Norris clipped the deer as the bus descended toward the small town of Manderson heading south on Wyoming Highway 789.

In a quirk, an tractor-trailer heading north passed the bus at the exact instant.

"It was simultaneous," Norris said.

The action was so quick that no one could witness the trajectory of the deer, but it hit both vehicles before parts of it struck the seat assistant coach Dar Vogel was sleeping in.

"It was quite an experience. All hell broke loose and the world exploded," Vogel said. "I felt a little sick, so I was lying down in the seat trying to sleep. I'm thankful now that I got (sick)."

Blood and entrails were left covering the hanging uniforms of a couple of girls.

The back of the seat Vogel was sleeping in was pierced by one of the deer's legs just inches above where Vogel lay. She wasn't sure what had punched the hole in the seat until later, when she checked her personal belongings in the seat behind her.

"There was a six-inch leg bone I found in my bag," she said.

Bits of glass, blood and hair covered Vogel and a couple of the freshman girls sitting near the front of the bus.

Norris quickly pulled the bus to the side of the road.

"Is everybody OK?" Norris asked.

Amazingly there were no serious injuries. Vogel and two girls had slight cuts from flying glass, and a piece of the deer's hide hit a girl in the shoulder.

Juniors Tory Thoman, Josee Vogel and Taylor Gordon had just finished a Certified Nursing Assistant class and put their new knowledge to work.

"The girls were great," Walker said. The trio began checking the rest of their teammates for injuries, provided First Aid to the pair with minor cuts, and found blankets for everyone as the passengers exited the bus.

"The girls took control of the situation along with Brett (Groesbeck) and Amanda (C'Bearing)," Vogel said. "I was still a little shaky"

With the bus on the side of the road and the girls safely waiting nearby, Norris called Bill Stiver, who was driving the boys team bus. Stiver drove out to take the girls to the Worland Quality Inn.

"Russell did an excellent job," Vogel said. "Both guys did a great job driving."

Norris contacted Wind River transportation director Kevin Sheifer and Washakie School District 1 transportation director Brad Feather. Feather opened the Worland bus garage, and Norris and Stiver worked past 11 p.m. to clean the bus. Feather fashioned a piece of plastic to replace the broken window for a temporary repair.

"We don't let a little deer stop us," Norris said.

"It was totally a freak accident," Sheifer said. "We run a lot of miles and haul a lot of kids. You don't want anything to happen, but the odds are against you. We send our drivers all around the state. Every driver has a list of contacts. Wherever you're at in the state of Wyoming, there's someone you can call. It gives you a warm feeling you know there's someone else out there."

The agreement was never formerly set up. The transportation directors just work together.

"Deer don't care what your credentials are," Sheifer said. "I listened to 15 minutes of audio (from the monitoring system on each bus) and it was very professional. The coaches did a super thing.

" The tough part was the amount of deer blood," he added.

At the motel, the coaches settled the team members into their rooms. The staff at the Quality Inn offered the motel's industrial washing machines to clean the blood-soaked uniforms.

"They were great. The uniforms were covered in slime, blood and gristle," Vogel said. "They let us use their machines, and the uniforms were ready for the Saturday games."

The team wasn't fazed by the incident and came back to defeat Rocky Mountain and Greybull on Saturday before returning home.

The bus was repaired in the Wind River garage the following week and put back on route duty.

"The girls were incredible. They acted much better than a group of adults would have in the same situation," Sheifer said.

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