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Truck driver faces charges for passing school bus on right

WILLMAR — The driver of a truck who is alleged to have frightened a 13-year-old girl by passing a school bus on the right — coming between her and the bus — is facing two misdemeanor charges for the incident.

The Kandiyohi County Attorney’s office filed charges Tuesday of disobeying a school bus stop arm and lights and illegally passing a school bus on the right against Allen Howard Morris, 48, of Apple Valley.

He is accused of driving a tractor-trailer rig on state Highway 23 near 175th Street Northeast in Kandiyohi County around 7:04 a.m. on May 30.  Alexis Schwartz was waiting on her family’s driveway to board a school bus for seventh-grade classes in the Paynesville Area Schools.

According to the criminal complaint filed in the case, the school bus driver had initially activated the amber warning lights as the bus slowed and came to a stop. A camera on the bus shows the bus driver opening the door. By doing so, the driver also activated red, flashing lights and an arm with a stop sign.

The camera, mounted on the back of the bus but facing forward, also captures images of a tractor and trailer rig passing the bus at a high rate of speed on the right side. The Minnesota State Patrol posted images of the incident on media outlets that day and asked for the public’s help in identifying the driver.

Another motorist had witnessed the incident, and had been able to get an identification number from the truck but not its license plate number.

At 6:30 p.m. on May 30, an investigating State Patrol officer received a voicemail from Morris about the incident. In subsequent interviews, Morris is alleged to have told the officer that he was looking at a field as he was driving. He looked up, saw the bus and realized he could not stop in time.

In his first conversation, he told the officer: “Well first of all, nobody was hurt, right? Please tell me no.’’

In a subsequent interview, Morris told the officer he saw the student standing and “freaked out’’ as he drove by. He said he panicked and didn’t know what to do, according to the complaint.

He was on his way from Barron, Wis., to Willmar at the time of the incident. The young girl and her family live north of Hawick.

Morris could face up to one year in jail and a $3,000 fine for each offense.

Alexis Schwartz was not injured in the incident, and her mother credited her with being observant and waiting a safe distance from the end of the driveway.   

 “Anything can happen in the blink of an eye,” Tracy Adams told the Tribune shortly after the incident in May. “She saved herself by paying attention.”

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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