Belle girls soccer bus hit head on after district match in Westphalia

Roxie Murphy
Staff Writer

Casey Schalk and her daughter pulled out of the Westphalia Fatima-Lions Complex onto Highway 63 Friday night — a car behind the Maries R-2 minibus transporting five of Erin Schalk’s teammates and coach after the Belle High School girls’ district soccer game.

Mother and daughter were talking about the game and how the team sustained a 6-2 loss, but the game was hard fought. Then mom noticed something unusual.

“I looked over just in time to see that the car wasn’t in the right place and then they hit,” Casey Schalk said.

In the passenger seat, Erin Schalk watched in horror as they came around the corner, nearing the Westphalia city limits, a half mile south of Highway 133.

“I looked up and seen that the car was coming over, then it kept coming over and tires screeched and then they hit,” Erin Schalk said. “There wasn’t time for the bus to slow down, and if the guy was passing, he would have been accelerating.”

Erin Schalk said the noise wasn’t like anything she had heard before.

“When they hit, the back end of the car was almost straight up,” Erin Schalk said. “It’s not a sound you have ever heard before, when two cars hit. I couldn’t put that sound to anything other than a car accident and I couldn’t explain it if no one has ever heard it.”

Casey Schalk remembers thinking that she had to get their vehicle off the road or they would get hit. She pulled into CSH Trailer Sales parking lot, while she called 911.

“By the time we got off the phone, some were getting off the bus and a couple of people were there, but no one was (going) on the bus,” Casey Schalk said.

As a Kingsford employee, her company had CPR and first aid training just two weeks before. When no one made a move toward the bus, Casey Schalk made a split second decision to go.

Colette Gieck and her daughter, Faith Gieck, had been two cars in front of the accident, and turned around.

“Casey was a rockstar,” Colette Gieck said later. “She left all her doors open and her car running to get to those kids.”

Erin Schalk followed, but her mom told her to wait. She wasn’t sure what she would find on the bus.

“When I finally got on the bus, Coach (Meagan Wall, 24, of Rolla) had a hoodie over her face and Baylie (Cadwallader, 18, of Vichy) was sitting in the seat by Coach, and Faith (Langdon, 16, of Vichy) was walking around. Nisha (Faber, 17, of Bland) was crying and Faith L. was trying to calm her down. Baylie said her hip hurt and she was going to fall off the seat, she was holding herself up by her arms, so I held her leg.”

Casey Schalk left the bus and gathered all the sweatshirts and a first aid kit from her car and brought it back to the bus. Outside, she tried helping Katelyn Love, 17, of Bland, into one of the sweatshirts, but the girl couldn’t lift her arm.

“The girls were all sweaty from the game and trauma makes you cold,” she explained.

Back on the bus, she sat holding Cadwallder’s leg and trying to keep Wall awake. The bus driver, Randy Hicks, 54, of Belle, was trapped beneath the dash, and calmly radioed-in to Tony Gieck, the transportation director who had been at the game to watch his daughter, Faith Gieck, play.

“I was just turning onto the intersection of EE,” Tony Gieck said. “I had left while the girls were still loading the bus.”

The transportation director said he arrived at the scene, and the bus was half on the shoulder of the road and half on the highway. A silver car was sitting in the middle of the road.

“I am assuming he (Hicks) did see him (the other car) because he tried to get off on the shoulder,” Tony Gieck said.

Erin Schalk later collaborated that statement when she said she saw the 2013 Chevrolet Starcraft bus pull suddenly to the passenger side, right before it hit the 2001 Chevrolet Impala driven by Caleb R. Hock, 18, of Jefferson City.

Transportation director said bus driver was ‘calm, cool and collected’

Tony Gieck said the scene he arrived to witness was one of total chaos.

“Two girls were outside and the rest were still inside,” he said. “I know Casey was there when I got there. Westphalia Fire Department had traffic stopped about 50 to 75 yards below the accident and the fire truck up front, one ambulance pulled up after I did. I was just a few minutes away.”

Hicks’ left foot was between the seat and front wheel-well and his right ankle was beneath the brake pedal, Tony Gieck said. The dash was overtop of him, keeping him pinned in place. Tony Gieck said he walked to the window of the bus to speak with him.

“He was calm, cool and collected,” Tony Gieck said.

Casey Schalk agreed. While she continued to hold one girl and keep the coach awake, she said Hicks stayed calm.

“I moved the armrest and he said, ‘hey, can you put that armrest back down? I’m having trouble breathing,’” she remembers.

With her arms full, Hicks’ statement caused no small amount of alarm, and she used her foot to kick the armrest back in place.

Casey Schalk continued to talk to the coach, who was in and out. Her face was swollen and  a laceration above her eyebrow was bleeding.

“They think her head hit her knees,” Faith Gieck said.

Strangers were sitting with the two girls outside of the bus, for which Casey Schalk was grateful.

“Meagan was covering her face and would close her eyes every once in a while and we would say, ‘hey, are you awake?’ and she would say, ‘yea, my face hurts,’ and I would say’ yeah, I know, but you’re still pretty,’” Schalk said.

Meanwhile, news was getting back about the accident as far away as the Belle boys’ baseball game in Cuba. The school messaging system was sending out text updates, and Superintendent Dr. Patrick Call, who was away visiting family in Kansas for the weekend, was contacted by several school members.

“I knew within a short time that we had had an accident, so our people that were there were trying to follow the correct procedure,” Call said. “We put out as little as possible because we didn’t want to violate anything, but we wanted people to know that we were aware of it and trying to help the situation.”

Lea Hickerson, BHS principal, drove to the scene from Rolla. The Missouri State Highway Patrol (MSHP) on scene made the call to send everyone to the hospital, but wanted to send some to University Hospital Columbia and others to another facility. Hickerson is said to be the one responsible for keeping everyone in one place by requesting they all go to Columbia.

Casey Schalk said it felt like forever before EMS finally boarded the bus.

“Meagan — I felt much better when they got her, and I could move to let Nisha off who was stuck behind me,” Casey Schalk said. She noticed her daughter was outside the bus handing out information, directing traffic and comforting friends. “Erin was great.”

The daughter thought her mom was doing pretty great too.

“It was crazy, and my mom was doing everything, and the bus driver was just sitting there and talking to everyone, and I didn’t realize how bad he was,” Erin Schalk said. “One of his ankles was almost severed off, I heard. They put the ankle back on and one of his knee caps was shattered. He just sat there talking and chillin’ until everyone was off the bus and then they got him.”

Phones were ringing off the hook, and a group was standing to man them.

“Everyone has passwords now!” Casey Schalk noted with frustration.

Emails and texts were sent out by Call and Hickerson with updates.

“As soon as it happened, Dawn (Hicks, wife of Randy Hicks), Eric Logan (athletic director at Maries R-2) and myself were trying to get parents called. That happened as soon as we got there. That was good,” Erin Schalk said.

The Hickses were at the game watching Dawn Hicks’ niece play.

Teammates share ambulance ride

Love and Langdon went together, Cadwallder on another, Zana Robertson, 17, of Belle on another. Tony Gieck stood by Hicks as EMS cut him free, and then he was flown to University Hospital Columbia.

The second driver, Hock, also had to be cut out. Faith Gieck said they had heard he shattered his left ankle and broke both legs.

“The worst was we got everyone off the bus, and I heard a man scream, and it was the dad of the other car’s driver,” Casey Schalk said.

An account of injuries on Monday included Langdon with bruises; Robertson with pulled muscles on the left side and a mild concussion; Love with a broken clavicle, and Wall with three bones broken around the left eye socket. She will have surgery today (Wednesday) to have a plate put in.

“I didn’t break anything, but the right side of my body hurts so much (head, jaw, shoulder, and collarbone, ribs, hip and knee),” Faber said in response to a Monday inquiry of her condition.

Cadwallder sustained a dislocated right hip and bruising on her right side.

Call said Monday that Hicks had surgery on his ankle Saturday, and will have surgery on his knee soon.

“We got lucky, for as unfortunate as it is,” Erin Schalk said Monday.

After team effort; teams pray

Casey Schalk recalled that their game was one of the best the team had played, with three senior girls missing, and no one to come off the bench. Cadwallder still has a chance to make All-District honors, and will know in the next couple of weeks.

“Before we left, the Dixon team asked our team out on the field for a prayer circle,” Casey Schalk said, remembering that she had thought that was cool and had not seen it before.

Could the accident have been avoided if they hadn’t stopped to pray, she wondered, or was that prayer the reason no one died? 

“We have been over a thousand different scenarios,” Casey Schalk said. “The bus came to a stop right where it needed to, because if it hadn’t, it might have rolled down that embankment.”

Once everyone was gone, the Schalks cleared everyone’s gear off the bus and loaded it into their car.

“Let me tell you, we emptied the bus of gear, and I had a car full of used soccer gear,” Casey Schalk laughed. “It smelled bad.”

They left the scene between 8:30 and 9 p.m.

One of the girls mentioned how much they hated the minibus, “But a bigger bus might have killed the other driver,” she said.

Of the soccer team members at the game, four had left with their parents.

“It still feels like it didn’t happen,” Erin Schalk said. “If I think about it now, it can’t possibly happen in a little town — to us.”

The girls stay in touch through group messaging because no one sleeps, they are all uncomfortable.

She adds that she is glad no one died.

“There was a kid driving the other car, he was only 18-years-old,” Schalk said. “He didn’t wake up that morning and think, ‘I’m going to hit a school bus full of girls.’ I am mad at him, but I don’t wish that on anyone.”

The bus is totaled and locked up at a towing yard until the MSHP finishes the investigation. Call said he has already contacted their insurance provider about the accident, and Tony Gieck said he expects to have the minibus replaced with a bigger 30 or 40 passenger bus by next school year. Until then, Call said they will discuss how well the emergency plan worked and what changes they can make at their next meeting.

“They are all going to need our support and those prayers need to keep coming,” he said Monday.

(The Ya Yas of Belle are collecting donations for Randy Hicks to help with his recovery. Contact Cindy Butler on the Ya Yas-Belle, Missouri Facebook page for more information).