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School bus drags kindergartener nearly 600 feet

The boy's mother ran after the bus when she noticed her son caught in the door.

BUXTON, Maine — Athena Lavigne lived a nightmare that she can’t shake.

The Buxton mom was watching on Thursday as her son, a six-year-old kindergartner, got off the bus across the street from their home.

As the driver closed the door and started to drive away, she realized her son's backpack was caught in the door as it closed.

Lavigne said she ran after the bus.

"It was terrifying, as a mom, to be screaming down the street, chasing your son, thinking you’re gonna watch him die," she said through tears during an interview Friday outside her home. "It’s just awful. It’s been awful; and I just keep seeing the same scene over and over again. It’s not going away."

According to a press release from the Buxton Police Department, the driver, 63, dragged the child for 573 feet at a slow speed before he stopped.

"I was screaming for him to stop, to stop, to stop," Lavigne recounted. "I didn’t think he was ever going to stop, and I thought I was going to watch my son’s body go under the school bus."

Dottie Muchmore is the transportation director for MSAD 6. She said the driver was new to the district, but went through the same 40+ hours of training that all drivers go through. She said loading and unloading students is a critical part of the training, and it’s critical the district’s protocols are followed.

"We have to be 100% focused at all times, especially during this process," she said.

Superintendent Paul Penna said the driver is on administrative leave while police investigate the accident.

Muchmore said building relationships and trust with families in the district is important to her department, and that the new driver taking over the bus route had met with families that morning.

Back at home, Lavigne said her son was in good spirits and recovering from road rash on his leg. She smiled and said her son had done more to make her feel better about the accident than she had for him.

She also said her family would find another way to get to her son and her young daughter to and from school.

"That was one of the very first things he said to me when I grabbed him up from the ground, was he didn’t want to be on the bus anymore," she said. "He don’t want to go on the bus anymore. And neither one of my children will be riding the school bus the rest of the year."

Meanwhile, Penna and Muchmore will try to assure the other parents in one of the state's largest school districts that their kids will be safe on the road.