A joyous bus trip home from President Obama's inauguration in Washington ended up in a lengthy delay and presented some medical concerns yesterday for 54 Toledo-area travelers after the bus broke down near Youngstown.
"This is something we'll laugh about one day - but not today," said Virginia Kynard.
The group from Toledo had departed from Scott High School on Monday evening and arrived in the nation's capital at dawn Tuesday, the day of the inauguration.
The bus, chartered from Childer's Corporate Transportation of Toledo, developed electrical problems that affected the headlights, turn signals, and windshield defroster after a stop near the Pennsylvania-Ohio line around 2 a.m.
After attempting to drive a short distance on the Ohio Turnpike, the bus driver pulled over to the side of the road. While idling, exhaust fumes became strong inside the cabin and a number of passengers voiced concerns over possible carbon monoxide poisoning.
The trip's organizer, Mike "Huggy Bear" Huggins of Toledo, called 911 about 2:30 a.m. and a Turnpike vehicle arrived and escorted the bus a short distance to a tollbooth office, where emergency medical crews tested all passengers for carbon monoxide and blood pressure levels. Several people said they felt dizzy or nauseated, but none was taken to a hospital. The Ohio Highway Patrol checked for carbon monoxide inside the bus and Patrolman Frank Bennett said there was no measurable level of the potentially deadly gas.
The bus passengers crowded into the Ohio Turnpike's toll booth office in Youngstown while Childer's officials searched for alternative transportation. It took more than eight hours for a bus from another company to arrive.
Sgt. John Miller of the patrol's Berea post said bus firms normally provide help much sooner but Childer's officials told him they had trouble finding an available bus because so many had been rented for D.C. inauguration trips.
The highway patrol performed a complete inspection of the bus and Sergeant Miller said his post would forward the findings to the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. Childer's would have the option to challenge the report, called a civil forfeiture, he said.
The lengthy delay disrupted the work, school, and sleep schedules of the travelers who originally had expected to be back in Toledo by 1 or 2 a.m.
Willie Tucker, 55, said he was forced to miss a day of work at Banner Mattress for the first time in nine years. "That was a streak I was proud of," he said.
Despite the inconvenience, many bus riders said it very well could have been worse.
"If this had happened on the way down to Washington, it would have been disastrous,' Ms. Kynard said. "But it happened afterward and it hasn't dampened anyone's spirit. The inauguration was phenomenal."
Mr. Huggins advised passengers to focus on having been in Washington for the historic inauguration of the first African-American president, and to "brush off" the problems with the bus trip home.
The Obama bus featured average citizens who had planned a 30-hour "turnaround" bus trip to Washington and back for President Obama's inauguration and parade.
The sold-out bus trip had been spotlighted in The Blade and on local television news stations.
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