A 66-year-old bus driver was found dead in the parking lot of her Fairburn private school Friday afternoon following what officials are calling a “tragic accident.”
Police believe the driver stepped off the bus in the Landmark Christian School parking lot when the vehicle rolled forward, pinning her underneath.
The driver was identified Saturday morning as Fairburn resident Sandra Goodman. The school’s leader called her a “beloved staff member” who adored the students she brought to school each day.
“She was awesome,” Head of School Jason McMaster told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Just an all around lovely person.”
McMaster said Goodman came out of retirement two years ago to work for the private school. Before that, she worked 30 years as a bus driver for Fulton County Schools. She loved her students, McMaster said, and always asked them great questions. Goodman is survived by her husband, Ray, and her three adult children.
Ray Goodman, who still works as a school bus driver in Fulton County, brought his wife lunch Friday afternoon and had the chance to spend some time with her before her death, McMaster said.
“Please pray for the family and respect their privacy during this difficult time,” he said. “Our hearts are broken as we share in this loss with them. We will be doing everything we can to love and support them through this.”
Officers were called out to the gravel parking lot near the school’s sports facility about 3:30 p.m. and found Goodman underneath the bus, Fairburn police spokesman Deputy Chief Anthony Bazydlo said. Police initially believed she was experiencing mechanical problems with the bus and crawled underneath it to check out what was wrong.
It was later determined she left the bus in gear before stepping off. The vehicle then rolled forward, trapping her underneath. Officials said Goodman was killed instantly.
Police tape and patrol vehicles surrounded the bus in the school’s parking lot Friday afternoon as the investigation into the driver’s death got underway. The Georgia Department of Public Safety conducted two inspections of the 2-year-old bus but no mechanical issues were found, Bazydlo said Saturday morning.
Shortly before she was killed, Goodman texted Landmark’s transportation director and said she was having issues with her emergency brake, police and school officials said. The director called to see if everything was OK, but did not get a response from Goodman.
“I don’t know if this was some kind of mistake made by the driver or some kind of error that was made, but the inspection of the bus that was conducted — everything was fine,” Bazydlo said Saturday.
No students were aboard the bus at the time of the accident, but McMaster said grief counselors are available for those who would like to speak with someone. Authorities also said they are reviewing surveillance footage from the parking lot to get a better understanding of what happened.
“It’s just awful,” McMaster said Saturday afternoon.
In a statement, Fairburn Mayor Elizabeth Carr-Hurst said: “We are deeply saddened to hear of your great loss. Our prayers and condolences are with all who are affected by this tragedy. Please know that we the City of Fairburn are with you during this difficult time.”
The incident remains under investigation.
— Staff writer Shaddi Abusaid contributed to this article.