Jessica Kruithoff wiped away a tear as she waited for her 5-year-old daughter at one of the 144th Avenue entrances to River Haven Village in Grand Haven Township.
“I thought she got off where they told me she got off,” Kruithoff said. “I thought someone took her.”
Even though police had just informed her that her daughter had been located — still on the school bus — Kruithoff said she wouldn’t believe it until she saw her with her own eyes.
Ottawa County Sheriff’s deputies responded to the manufactured home community when Kruithoff called 911 for help at about 4:20 p.m. The young mother said she was waiting when the Grand Haven Area Public Schools bus made its normal stop at the intersection, but her daughter did not exit.
“I went up and banged on the doors,” Kruithoff said. “(The driver) opened and I asked for my daughter.”
Kruithoff said several of the children on the bus yelled out that her child had been dropped off at the wrong stop.
The distraught mother said she ran to her home, jumped into her car and drove to the other three bus stops for the River Haven community. She found a girl at one of the stops that she initially thought was her daughter, but it turned out to be another child.
“I came back here (and) the bus was still here,” Kruithoff said. “She had just closed the door.”
Kruithoff said she talked to the bus driver again, but the substitute driver did not know the whereabouts of the girl.
Keith Konarska, superintendent for the Grand Haven school district, said deputies contacted the school bus garage about the missing child. He said the administrative staff then contacted the bus driver and determined the girl was on the bus.
“The student was never unsupervised,” Konarska said. “The driver was still continuing on the route when she got the call from the bus garage.”
Konarska said the garage sent another driver out with a van to meet the bus and take the girl back to her stop. That way, the bus could continue on its route.
“We transport over 4,000 students every day safely,” Konarska said. “Occasionally, as students adjust to the route, they miss their stop.”
Konarska said anytime a child does not get off a bus where expected, parents should “call the bus garage and alert us immediately so we can begin helping them locate their child.”
Another bus driver for Grand Haven Area Public Schools, Ray Clover, delivered the child to her appreciative mother.
“I’ve been driving 20 years,” he said. “Kids fall asleep on the bus. They miss their stop. It happens.”
Clover said he tells parents: “Bottom line, they’re always safe if they’re with us.”
Several neighborhood children gathered around during the mother-and-child reunion. Some of them had been riding around the community to look for their friend.
Kruithoff thanked them and gave Clover a hug.
“Fortunately, this turned out well for everybody,” Konarska said. “We’re very happy about that.”