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Eyewitness describes harrowing experience

An eyewitness’s account of the stoning of the school bus after an ASHSAA volleyball game at Fagaitua High School on Tuesday evening, differs from Director of Education Vaitinasa Dr. Salu Hunkin Finau’s in regards to the how long the school bus was subject to stones being thrown at it.


The stoning incident, according to Vaitinasa happened in front of the Police East Substation, while the windshield of the bus was stoned in Aua village.


“Luckily the bus driver is a veteran driver and was able to hold down the fort and take the kids away from dangerous grounds, it was fortunate he was not injured, because the rocks went right through the windshield,” the DOE director said. The driver told Samoa News their bus was escorted by the police however even with the presence of officers, it did not stop some youth from stoning the school bus.


According to THS Counselor Seira Moors, who was on the bus as part of the THS officials there for supervision, the incident began “as soon as we left FHS gymnasium, not even a minute on the highway, we heard rocks hit from both sides of the bus, it intensified as we drove on. I heard windows being pulled up and our VP Dorian Salave’a ordered everyone on the bus to pull up the windows, and to ‘get down’! That’s what everyone did.”


The bus was under police escort when they first left the FHS gym Moors said, “We were escorted away from the gym and onto the main highway by DPS. When the rocks started hitting the bus, our bus driver, Siipa Togiola, kept honking the horn. DPS didn’t respond at first, but a couple of minutes later they realized something was happening and we saw them turn around.”


She noted, “Our bus kept going and we were without police escort all the way to Leloaloa, where we pulled up in front of Tutuila store. I was on the phone with 911 since Auto and called for EMS and police escort. They finally arrived about 10 or 15 minutes later.”


Moors describes the stoning incident as a prolonged attack, beginning at Fagaitua, “then all the other villages except for Laulii. Aua village was the worst! The rock throwing came with such incredible force that it ripped through the windows and landed on us. Some hit the chairs and landed on us.”


Moors said inside the bus, during the incident, the students were not crying. Instead, “There were random angry responses from kids in the back saying they wanted to fight back, and were saying how awful it was, while some were trying to get up to look, but our VP and a couple of faculty members yelled out to them to stay down and stop what they were saying. One staff member in the back part of the bus called out that a student was hurt. I asked a colleague in front of me to pass my bag. I was able to retrieve my phone and called 911 and asked for EMS and DPS assistance.”


The THS counselor said it took a while for the DPS and EMS to respond to her emergency call, noting she wasn’t very impressed with the dispatcher.


“I had talked to her amidst the rock throwing and asked her if she could hear it, this is when we were in Aua, because we had communicated back and forth since Auto. She said she had already notified EMS and was getting word from DPS. She kept asking where we were and with the help of my colleague in front of me, I was able to identify where we were. I asked her if EMS was coming, she said for us to keep coming and stop when we see the EMS truck.


“I asked her again if she had called for DPS because we desperately needed help. She said she sent word. We pulled over in Leloaloa in front of Tutuila store at the suggestion of our bus driver.  She said to keep coming but I told her we were unable to because we were warned that Atu’u is another bad area, that there were people waiting there.


“When the first police car arrived, the students and a staff member said it was the vehicle that escorted us earlier on in Fagaitua. It had just gotten there. A little while later, the second DPS vehicle arrived.


“I called 911 again to find out the status of the EMS truck. She said the EMS truck was in Satala waiting. I asked why it was there, why was it not coming to us. She didn’t have an answer. She just said there was a police car there to pick up the injured kids and bring them over to EMS in Satala.


“We got our colleague and three students off the bus to go with the police car to Satala while we waited for further instructions from the police.”


Moors told Samoa News that “one JV student athlete was hit the worst on the side of his forehead and eye area, and was not released until 1a.m. due to lab tests and X-rays. A couple of Varsity players received cuts — and also got medical attention at LBJ. Others received minor cuts and bruises.”


The counselor said she has no idea who the culprits are. “The one thing we know about the Aua ones are that they are young. Dorian said the kids looked like young freshmen. All had no tee shirts on. Other than that, I don’t want to speculate.”


Moors then confirmed what the Vice principal of FHS had told Samoa News: “One thing I want to mention is that we had four or five Fagaitua volleyball players on our bus. They were helpful in letting us know what villages to watch out for. They did warn us about Aua and Atu’u. We were able to drop them off safely.”


She concluded, “Also I want to thank bystanders in front of the Tutuila store who went in the store to get boxes to cover our windows. We broke them up and fitted them onto to our cracked windows. Luckily, nothing happened from Atu'u on. DPS left us around the Matu’u Faganeanea area.”