It was a scary 24 hours for over 136 students and staff from Winnipeg this week, as a bus collision with a semi-trailer left them stranded.
Maples Collegiate from Winnipeg had been part of a music festival in Edmonton, before attempting to make the trip home.
“We had three buses leave Edmonton around 8 a.m. Wednesday, and I get a call last night around 8 p.m. that one of our buses was in an accident,” Scott Shier, the principal of Maples Collegiate said.
The bus had collided with a semi on Highway 1 east of Sintiluta, Sask. The crash left the bus driver with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries. Shier however, said no students were hurt in the accident.
“We had a few students with bleeding noses, but that was the extent of that,” he explained.
The three buses had left Edmonton when road conditions weren’t too bad, but that evening however, things changed dramatically as wind and snow caused havoc on Saskatchewan highways.
On Wednesday night between 7:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m., Saskatchewan RCMP said they responded to more than 50 calls asking for assistance related to road conditions, including the accident involving the music students bus.
At the time of the crash, Shier said one bus was already 20 minutes ahead of the other two buses, and rather than risking turning around, continued down the highway to Wolseley, Sask.
The other bus, arrived at the scene and picked up the other students and staff before making their way to Indian Head, Sask. for the night.
It was then Shier and his coworkers began working on a plan for what to do with the students.
“I got ahold of emergency services in Indian Head, and they rolled out the welcome mat for our 88 students and staff,” Shier explained. “Our vice principal got ahold of the mayor of Wolseley, they were in a council meeting at the time… and they opened the school for our other group of students.”
And with road conditions still poor in Saskatchewan, the staff and students remain in the two communities.
In Indian Head, the students slept at the town hall, while those in Wolseley slept at the community school.
“Everyone got mats and air mattresses and blankets and before you know it the community was settled in for the night,” Connie Baumgartner said, the principal at Dr. Isman elementary school in Wolseley. “We went and got stuff from the high school as well so everyone had something soft to sleep on.”
When the students woke up Thursday morning, the meals for the day had already been taken care of. The local bakery put on a breakfast for the students, as shuttles took them to and from the school to the shop.
“These kids have just been through a lot and we gave them a safe place for the evening,” Baumgartner said. “Just trying to make them feel welcome and at home.”
But the good deeds didn’t only come from Saskatchewan.
As a thank you for hosting the Maple collegiate students, the music students went to different classrooms and helped with writing homework and storytelling assignments at the Wolseley school.
And later in the day, they put on a band and choir performance for the entire school.
“When you see someone in need, you help them and we were just making light of a heavy situation,” Baumgartner said.
Those in Indian Head had a similar situation, as firefighters brought in mats and blankets to the town hall for students and staff to use.
“It worked out good that we could put the students downstairs, and then upstairs we had chairs and tables set up so they could eat,” said Indian Head Mayor Steven Cole.
He said people from all over have been asking how they could help, and Thursday night’s supper is being made by local businesses for the students to enjoy.
“This is why I am proud to call Indian Head my home,” Cole said.
Shier said the plan is to stay in Saskatchewan another night, and when RCMP say the roads are all clear, the students will continue on their way back home.
Until then, however, they are making some new friends in Saskatchewan.
“It makes me emotional just thinking about what they did for our kids,” Shier said about the two Saskatchewan towns. “We are overwhelmed with the hospitality.”