A minor incident involving a school bus last week resulted in a ticket for the driver.

According to the Effingham Police Department, bus driver Leland Knierim, 70, was operating a Unit 40 school bus at 7:31 a.m. Sept. 25 when he rear-ended a vehicle driven by Rita Ruesken, 60, of Effingham, at the intersection of Third and Fayette.

Forty-six children were on the bus at the time of the incident, said Unit 40 Assistant Superintendent Jason Fox. Authorities said there were no injuries reported from either driver or the children.

“(In) this incident, the bus pulled up behind a car. His foot slipped off the brake, and he tapped the car in front of him,” Fox said.

Fox said the incident was a “bumper-to-bumper” tap that caused minor damages to Ruesken’s vehicle. The children were taken to school by a different bus, and the parents of each student were notified, he said.

Transportation Director Kristin Harvey and Knierim remained on the scene to make sure proper paperwork was completed, and the driver brought the bus back to the Unit 40 bus garage following the incident.

Fox said that the driver called the bus garage immediately after the incident to report it to district administration, who then report these types of incidents to the authorities, according to Unit 40’s policies.

Knierim previously pleaded guilty to minor traffic violations in Effingham County. In 1991, Knierim pleaded guilty to driving around a railroad crossing gate, and in 2006, he pleaded guilty to failure to wear a seat belt; it is unknown if either of these incidents occurred while Knierim operated a school bus.

The incident occurred two days before a fatal school bus crash in Moultrie County in which two were killed, including a student. On Friday, Moultrie County Coroner Lynn Reed pronounced Tyson G. Mendoza, 5, of Gays and Lori E. Samples, 56, of Decatur dead at the scene on Illinois Rt. 32.

Preliminary investigations into the incident revealed the bus was southbound on Illinois Rt. 32, and Sample was traveling eastbound in a Ford Edge around 3:39 p.m. Sample stopped at the intersection then proceeded into the path of the bus, causing the bus to strike Sample’s driver’s side door.

There were 11 students on the bus at the time of that incident. The crash remains under investigation by the Illinois State Police.

This intersection was the same location at which a driver under the influence of drugs and alcohol collided with a school bus carrying the Teutopolis High School basketball team, cheerleaders and school staff in February 2017. Five students were injured in the accident, and the driver pleaded guilty to aggravated driving under the influence.

Dawn Schabbing can be reached at dawn.schabbing@effinghamdailynews.com or 217-347-7151 ext. 138.


Dawn Schabbing is a senior reporter at the Effingham Daily News, covering Effingham City Hall, Unit 40, and special projects. A graduate of Lake Land College and Eastern Illinois University with degrees in journalism, she lives in Neoga.

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