WILLISTON, N.D. — Early on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 1, school bus driver Ruth Adekunle was greeted by an unexpected and unwelcome passenger.
Ruth Adekunle, who owns private school bus service TransportMe with her husband Adeloma Adekunle, was stopped around 6:30 a.m. and waiting to pick up a student. She had the door of the bus slightly open so the vehicle’s stop signs and lights were active.
A figure approached and by the time she realized it wasn’t the student she was waiting for, it was too late. She couldn’t close the door all the way.
“So he ripped the door open and got on my bus,” she said.
A bus that already had students on board.
“I told him, ‘Get off my bus!” Ruth Adekunle recalled saying.
When he didn’t, she told him she was calling the police. What happened next surprised her — and scared her even more.
The man started yelling that he was being chased and that she needed to drive. He told her that the car that was right behind her was the one that had been chasing him.
Ruth Adekunle called 911 as she started to drive, and started to make her way toward the Law Enforcement Center on Broadway.
When she saw police she stopped, and the car behind her stopped, as well.
As police officers swarmed the bus, that car drove away. Officers took a statement from her and they took the man with them.
Police have sent the case to the Williams County State’s Attorney’s Office for review, but no charges had been filed as of Monday, Oct. 7.
The Adekunles are hopeful something positive will come out of the scary experience. They’ve already started to make some changes.
Paul Whitcomb, a friend of the couple, has worked with law enforcement organizations on strategy and security and has been advising the Adekunles.
Since the incident last week, parents and others have volunteered as escorts to drive the route behind the school buses.
“That’s giving the drivers and students a sense of safety,” Whitcomb said.
Williston Public School District No. 1 has also offered to include TransportMe drivers on safety and security trainings.
One immediate change was mechanical. Whitcomb said the switch to activate the bus’ lights and stop sign is no longer going to depend on the bus door being open. Instead, it will move somewhere so a driver can turn the lights on while still keeping the door locked.
Whitcomb praised Ruth Adekunle’s quick thinking for keeping the students on board — as well as she herself — safe.
For her part, she’s grateful something positive might come out of it, but Oct. 1 was a scary day for her.
“I’m a little shaken, still a little nervous when I get near that area,” she said.