Barry Heslin from Co Leitrim is in a critical condition following the fall on his way home from Gortletteragh National School on Tuesday afternoon. The accident happened just as the bus was turning a bend on a small, narrow road between Mohill and Drumlish.
Barry was immediately taken to Sligo General Hospital and transferred to Beaumont a short time later.
The incident is said to have brought back many tragic memories to locals, of a young boy who was killed after falling from a school bus coming from the same school, on the same road, 20 years ago.
Gardaí will today interview all 27 children who were on the school bus at the time of the accident, in an effort to establish how the emergency door at the back of the bus had opened and how Barry fell.
Among those on the bus were Barry’s older brother Jack, nine, and sister Orlagh, 11.
Traumatised children in the small three-teacher rural school received counselling yesterday and held a prayer service for their school friend in the local church.
The 53-seater coach, which is 17-years-old, was removed by gardaí to Carrick-on-Shannon Station for inspection.
Bus Éreann said that the coach had a valid Department of the Environment (DOE) certificate and that the emergency doors had been checked during the road worthiness test last June.
“It is a 53-seater coach fully fitted with seat belts. There were 28 children on the bus when the accident happened, so every child had a seat,” the spokeswoman said. “At this time it looks like a very regrettable accident and we hope that the young boy makes a full recovery. It’s every parent’s nightmare,” she said.
Barry’s father, Garda Sergeant Shane Heslin, is a former county footballer for Leitrim and locals last night sent their support to him and his wife, Peg.
“Our hearts go out to them,” said Councillor Sinead Guckian, Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council, who some years ago spearheaded a campaign to highlight the need for seat belts on school buses.
“This family has always been very involved in the community through the GAA and other voluntary work and our thoughts are with them as we pray for Barry’s full recovery,” said Ms Guckian.
Following a school bus crash which claimed the lives of five teenage girls in Kentstown, Co Meath, in May 2005, the Government moved to counter public concern about safety on school buses.
A programme was initiated which involved installing seatbelts in all 3,000 buses in the school fleet. Extra buses were provided to end the practice of three children occupying two adult seats.