County commissioner, road foreman apologizes for throwing rake under McCook school bus

LINCOLN — A Red Willow County Board member who is also a road foreman in southwest Nebraska has apologized for tossing a sharp-tined garden rake under a passing school bus carrying 11 kids after he “lost it” over speeding vehicles.

The McCook school bus was not damaged and no one was injured in the incident May 10, but Red Willow County Sheriff Alan Kotschwar said he plans to discuss the matter with the county attorney.

Earl McNutt, who is foreman of the Red Willow County Road Department as well as an elected member of the County Board, said Wednesday that he has issued a public apology and apologized to school officials in McCook for his actions.

McNutt said that he and two other county workers had been patching an asphalt road all day north of McCook last Thursday and that several cars had sped past them without slowing down.

When the school bus approached, McNutt said the driver ignored the waves of another county worker to slow down. As the bus passed, at a speed McNutt estimated at 50 mph, he threw a garden rake underneath the vehicle.

“I can’t fathom why it happened,” said McNutt, a 40-year employee of the county road crew. “I shouldn’t have let the pressure of the public get to me.”

“This is something that could haunt me the rest of my life,” he added.

McCook Public Schools Superintendent Grant Norgaard said Monday afternoon that there is no evidence that the bus driver was speeding.

“The bus driver said she slowed down as she approached the road crew,” Norgaard said.

There were no warning cones or signs to designate the area as a road work zone, but should have been, McNutt said.

McNutt, who has been on the County Board for 20 years, said the bus’s tires ran across the rake’s handle, not the tines.

One area resident, Larry Randolph of Indianola, Nebraska, said he was upset that no charges have been filed against McNutt.

“How would you feel if your kids were on that bus?” Randolph asked.

Kotschwar, the sheriff, initially had said he did not know what criminal charges could result from the incident. But Wednesday, he said he plans to talk about it with Red Willow County Attorney Paul Wood when he returns to town Friday. County attorneys make decisions about filing charges.

McNutt, 59, said he “totally regrets” what he did, but doesn’t know what else he can do.

“I can’t say sorry enough,” McNutt said. “I just feel terrible about it.”

This report includes material from the McCook Gazette.