SUNNYSIDE “I am an animal lover. He (Yasikov) helped me a lot to train my horse. He was so smart. He was great,” Jennifer Huerta warm-heartedly professed.
“Yasikov,” a five-year old Border Collie mix, found his purpose in life — to be a part of Jennifer Huerta’s family, as she understood the meaning of their bond while holding his severed and bloody body in her arms after he was struck by a Sunnyside School District bus on the morning of Jan. 16.
“…He (Yasikov) was like, not wrong. But he was walking through the road. I don’t know what he saw, but he just curves the road. And then, the bus… he was like, more than 30 (mph) on the icy and gravel road,” Huerta described in a soft and emotional tone of English and Mexican influence as tears of despair traveled down her face.
“I was in shock. I was like, I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe he (bus) passed like that. He didn’t even stop. Nothing,” she painfully recalled. “The kids saw everything. It was about 7:55 in the morning.”
Huerta began her morning outside in the yard with Yasikov and Pote close at hand. DenBoer Road, a narrow, mixed gravel, rural lane which runs in front of her family’s house, and is a shared route used by the Grandview School District to pick up kids as well.
“You can tell the difference between Grandview bus and Sunnyside bus. Right away, the difference, right away,” she emphatically stated.
During the past year, Huerta has observed the rate of speed between the two buses is significantly different.
“The older (Grandview bus) driver, he passed my house, and when he sees my other dog (Pote) he’s like smiling, and he’s really nice.”
Both dogs are embraced as family members, and the death of Yasikov has been devastating for Huerta.
“I was in a lot of depression, because I saw everything.”
Her parents grieved for Yasikov and shared in their daughter’s sadness.
“My mom was really, really bad too,” Huerta acknowledged. “I couldn’t believe that he (dad) was crying too. It was really sad for everyone.”
Watching how the tragic event unfolded right before her eyes, she feels empowered to do something about this heartbreaking experience.
“It hurts me so much because I know my dog is not going to come back. I just don’t want it to happen again with a kid, with a dog, with no one!”
She contacted the Sunnyside School District and spoke with Transportation Department Director Dalrie Hoyle about the incident. Huerta said that Hoyle was sorry to hear about what had happened and set up a time to meet with her.
According to Huerta, during her meeting with Hoyle, who had previously checked the monitoring system and verified that the bus driver was in fact speeding at the time of the accident. That was confirmed.
Huerta was informed the driver was questioned about his failure to stop at the scene, and it was recommended he receive additional training.
Following their meeting, Huerta received a phone call from the School District’s insurance carrier. She said his name was Gary, and he tried to intimidate her from the beginning.
He told her that she was not going to receive any compensation, and if Huerta attempted to pursue the matter any further, she would ultimately lose.
She attempted to explain that the speed of the school bus and the safety of everyone was the issue for her immediate concern.
Huerta became frustrated by the lack of compassion and rude behavior demonstrated by the School District and their representatives.
“The School District was like sorry, goodbye!” Huerta explained that she spoke with a lawyer about filing a complaint against the speeding school bus driver.
After almost two months, the bus continues to be driven in a manner that could result in another tragic accident on the county roadway, she voiced.
Last Wednesday, March 6, she wrote a Letter to the Editor at the Sunnyside Sun and brought her community issue forward in loving memory of Yasikov.
“He was so lovely with everyone. With everyone,” exclaimed Huerta, who found Yasikov on the road, alone and scared three years ago. The next day, he followed her home.
“I was like, it was love. He was so happy!”
On Monday, March 11, Hoyle was contacted by the Sunnyside Sun for comment about her prior conversation with Huerta. She confirmed they spoke, and the matter had been turned over to their insurance carrier.
Hoyle suggested the newspaper speak with the School District’s Communications Director Jessica Morgan, who didn’t respond to a phone message for further comment by paper deadline.