VAN HORN, Texas —- Parents in the small West Texas town of Van Horn are worried drug smugglers are using school buses. Nearly 500 pounds of marijuana was found on a bus carrying Van Horn junior varsity basketball players back home from an out-of-town game.
“The kids were talking and they saw bags being taken off the bus,” said Tomas Mendoza, whose daughter was one of the 47 players on the bus.
The Van Horn junior varsity girls and boys basketball teams had traveled to the border town of Presidio to play games.
The bus driver found the drugs when the red-and-white bus emblazoned with the Van Horn Eagles name on the side stopped at a convenience store in Marfa so the players could get snacks. He found 482 pounds of marijuana stuffed in four large, black duffel bags stashed in the bottom storage area.
The bus had just passed through a highway checkpoint, but border patrol agents did not find the load of drugs.
“It was pretty brazen,” said Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carillo.
To calm concerned parents, Sheriff Carillo personally escorted a Van Horn bus full of players to a game in Alpine Tuesday afternoon. But, given the county’s limited resources, he said that was not likely to be a long-term solution.
Some parents decided to keep their children home.
“It’s a scary deal and I’m not one to get scared real easy,” Mendoza said. “But that’s my daughter that goes on those trips and I basically didn’t let her go today because I’m just concerned.”
News of the smuggling attempt spread quickly in the small farming community just off Interstate 10.
“It’s been the talk of the town,” said Debbie Clark, a native of Van Horn. “I’ve heard five different stories about what happened.”
Clark was one of the patrons in the Paradise Hair Salon who had heard about the bus driver finding a large load of marijuana on the school bus.
“He noticed the door for the bus was kind of open and he checked it and he saw that it was drugs,” said Cruz Parada, one of the salon’s owners.
Parada and some of her customers suspected smugglers had planted the drugs on the bus.
“You just wonder, are our kids safe?” she asked.