NEW PHILADELPHIA, Ohio (WJW) — Superintendent of Buckeye Career Center Bob Alsept, a Tusky Valley graduate, was attending the Ohio School Board Association Capital Conference at the Greater Columbus Convention Center on Tuesday when six people were killed in a deadly bus crash in Licking County.
“That was the conference for which just about every school board member and school superintendent and central office member from across the state were in Columbus for,” Alsept said.
A Tusky Valley High School graduate himself, Alsept was aware the band from his Alma Mater was coming there to perform.
“Sally Green is the incoming president of the Ohio School Board Association and she is on the board at Tusky Valley. They were going to perform as part of Mrs. Green’s ceremony to move into the president’s position,” Alsept said.
Alsept’s itinerary was interrupted when he got a call from a legislator with whom he scheduled a meeting to say he was going to be late, and wanted to re-schedule.
“We had an appointment with one of our legislators and we got word that he was going to be late because he was caught up in traffic on Interstate 70,” Alsept said.
What they did not know at the time was that the delay was because of the fatal crash involving a charter bus carrying the band and a vehicle that was following the bus.
Alsept said he was en route back to his hotel room just minutes away when his phone started blowing up.
Three students on the bus and all three in the chaperone vehicle were killed.
Those deaths included Shannon Wigfield, 45, who was there as the parent of a sophomore who was on the bus and who has also been a teacher at Buckeye Career Center for 24 years.
“Just finding out that indeed she was and she lost her life it was a horrible day,” Alsept said.
On Thursday, staff and students at Buckeye Career Center were encouraged to wear red to show their support for Tusky Valley High School while they were mourning the loss of one of their own.
“I never remember seeing her and thinking she was having anything but a great day because she had a smile on her face and just carried herself enthusiastically and you know what that rubs off on students, they are drawn to that,” Alsept said.
“A wonderful teacher, but more than what she taught, she really made them feel special about themselves, wouldn’t let them fail, could be hard on them as she needed to be but also let them know that she cared deeply about their success,” he added.
Wigfield’s death has also had a profound personal impact some 40 minutes away in Stark County.
While dozens of firefighters, medics and other first responders were doing everything they could to assist the victims at the scene of Tuesday’s crash, Wigfield’s husband is also a fire/medic in Jackson Township.
“When it’s that close it just hits differently and you hear about this stuff a lot, Everybody is trying to get through it and help the Wigfield family the best we can at this point,” said Damon Gallucci, President of Jackson Firefighters Local 2280.
To help support their brother firefighter and the Wigfield’s children, including the sophomore student who survived the crash in which his mother lost her life, and a Junior who attends Buckeye Career Center, the union has helped establish a donation fund in Shannon Wigfield’s memory. Click here to view or donate to the fund.
Gallucci says they are well aware five others lost their lives in the same tragedy and they are encouraging everyone to do what they can to support all six families through any other fundraisers as they go through a time of tremendous grief.
“As we talk to our staff, go home, hug the people close to you because you never know. I would say that for parents and students, don’t leave it unsaid. Don’t leave without a hug because it’s just too fragile,” Alsept said.