Routt County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Seth Merrick leads a SWAT team through a school bus Wednesday during a training exercise at the Routt County Rifle Club range. The exercise involved school bus drivers and school officials from throughout Routt County.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Seth Merrick leads a SWAT team through a school bus Wednesday during a training exercise at the Routt County Rifle Club range. The exercise involved school bus drivers and school officials from throughout Routt County.

Sheriff's Office creates mock hostage scenario for school district bus staff

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Routt County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Miles DeYoung briefs SWAT members before a training exercise Wednesday a the Routt County Rifle Club range.

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Routt County Sheriff's Office Investigator Ken Klinger briefs school bus drivers and school officials Wednesday before a training exercise at the Routt County Rifle Club range.

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Routt County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Miles DeYoung briefs school bus drivers and school officials Wednesday before a training exercise at the Routt County Rifle Club range.

— This wasn't about mountains of new school supplies or what to wear on the first day of class.

Wednesday's back-to-school preparations for area school bus drivers included SWAT team members brandishing air rifles and launching "flashbang" diversionary devices at their bus, as dozens of drivers from all three Routt County school districts posed as students during a mock hostile school bus-takeover at the Routt County Rifle Club range.

The joint training exercise, coordinated by the Routt County Sheriff's Office and Steamboat Springs School District Transportation Director Ed Dingledine, was designed to show Steamboat, Hayden and South Routt school drivers exactly what would happen if a hostage situation arose aboard their bus.

"It's going to be loud, and it's going to be fast - you're going to be thinking, 'What the heck?' and we'll already be through the bus," Sgt. Miles DeYoung said, briefing the drivers on what to expect during the exercise.

"We're not here to scare or intimidate you but to bring a sense of reality to the issue," Undersheriff David Bustos added.

The drivers, captive in their seats, jumped as smoke grenades exploded outside their windows, and they obediently followed the SWAT team's orders of "Heads down! Hands up!" as SWAT team members swept the bus.

"It's pandemonium for the kids," said Richard "Festus" Hagins, of Hayden.

In a post-exercise briefing, drivers called the experience eye-opening and shared some school bus safety concerns of their own - including limited or nonexistent radio and cell phone communication on stretches of their routes.

"The day to prepare for something like this is not the day it happens," Sheriff's Office Investigator Ken Klinger said.

Unfortunately, Colorado has developed a reputation for aberrant behavior and school violence, and though no one has orchestrated an attack on a school bus, terrorist groups have made plans for such a takeover, Klinger said.

Given the large geographic size of Routt County, during the past year the Routt County Sheriff's Office has ensured that its entire patrol division become SWAT-certified so that everyone is prepared to respond, Klinger said.

After leaving the range, the bus drivers returned to more typical in-service day activities, including a briefing from the Colorado Department of Education and a refreshing on rules and regulations, Dingledine said.

Classes begin today for South Routt students. Steamboat Springs students will head back to school Monday, and the first day of school in Hayden is Sept. 2.

Comments

peace 6 years, 3 months ago

I would like to start by saying that I highly recommend any kind of advance training and practice for our police forces. No one can ever be too prepared for any type of tragic event. But really where in the world did Mr. Klinger get his advance tip of a terrorist hostage school bus scenario?

I know of advance tips of a certain motorcycle clubs vacation plans to Steamboat, and how woefully unprepared the cops where for that event. In addition, what transpired at the Iron Horse Inn is more like having Opey Taylor as sheriff instead of Barney Fife.

Where was the training for that advance tip? I think that these swat agents just wanted to hone their skills, try their new whiz-bang toys, wear their Kevlar, etc., which should be commendable, but in so doing, I believe, the terrorist they where training against already won, which is beyond deplorable. Could be worse though and most likely will be. I have to use my words as my flash bang. Like the Hells Angels misadventure and mishandling, these words are a dud.

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Gaylan Hellyer 6 years, 3 months ago

I am the parent of three grade school age kids and spent the evening fielding questions as to why "the old people on the bus were being attacked by the men with guns", "what are they doing"? I was shocked to see this photo on the cover of the Steamboat paper just as school is starting up. It leaves kids with an unsettling fear. I realize things like this can happen anywhere at anytime, but put this photo on the front page as kids are going back? How about a story on page 3 not on the front. And I was not the only parent that had concern about this article. Others I spoke with in town as we would pass a paper stand thought the picture was a bit much. I'm not trying to shield my kids from the world, I just live in Steamboat over a large metro area for a reason. I think the local officals should be aware and prepared for anything but....... Perhaps the paper could use better judgement on which training exercises they cover/photogragh and put on the front page. I am also amazed that there were not more comments on this story.

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Matthew Stoddard 6 years, 3 months ago

RED- All the people who would be either outraged about it or start hurling the "whiny liberal" tag at you for bringing up your point have moved on to other forums for their own reasons.

I agree that the picture could be misinterpreted by kids, but having an adult explain it to them and let them know that this wasn't real but training to keep people safe might be helpful. I agree that after seeing some of the other pictures to the side on this story, they probably could have used one of them instead.

Still, this is a great excercise for our law enforcement and props to the people who volunteered to be on the bus.

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peace 6 years, 3 months ago

Every second of every day we are becoming more and more like our enemies.

"It's going to be loud, and it's going to be fast - you're going to be thinking, 'What the heck?' and we'll already be through the bus," Sgt. Miles DeYoung said,

Is'nt that how the terrorists will do it too?

respectfully,

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