Two quick-thinking, fast-acting young teens recognized their bus driver was having a medical incident and jumped into action in Smithers on Sept. 23.
The two students noticed the bus driver having what they originally thought was a “panic attack” on their regular route after school, and one jumped up to apply the brakes of the school bus. The other grabbed the wheel, steering them away from a treed area they were heading into. Once stopped, the teens used the bus radio to call for help.
Jimmy Fitzmaurice, the 13-year-old, Grade 8 student who steered the bus and then made the emergency call on the bus radio, said he wasn’t really paying too much attention at first.
“Then I could tell the driver was not joking around. I wasn’t scared at the time, I was confused, but knew the driver was in trouble and I needed to do something, so I jumped up and steered the bus clear of the trees we were heading towards.”
Another older student, (a Grade 11 student who does not wish to be identified), ran up and tried to push the brakes but the driver’s leg was kind of in the way, so they figured out how to operate the emergency brake, and got the bus stopped, said Fitzmaurice. Then they figured out how to open the bus door,
“There was a six-year-old sitting right behind the driver, who saw everything and was very scared and crying, and another older student (Alex, I think), sitting in the back of the bus, came and calmed the little one down and stayed with them until everyone went home,” Fitzmaurice explained.
From both of the teens’ accounts, the two didn’t have time to think, they saw the danger and reacted to keep everyone safe and to get help for the driver.
Officials from the school district and an ambulance quickly arrived at the scene.
“When the adults and ambulance came, we exited the bus from the rear door, and I checked to make sure no one was left on the bus, and after that was when it kind of hit me what had happened,” Fitzmaurice said.
“Plenty of people checked with us to see if the two of us that reacted were OK, and we were. We are continuing to have people checking to see if we need support, but really, we both just did what needed to be done, and then just went home.”
The teens were not sitting together on the bus, nor did they have time to coordinate their actions.
The student who did not want to be identified, acknowledged they realized the driver was having a seizure, as they had learned about them in class.
“I was terrified, honestly, but I knew that I had to help. I was just scared, but I still knew I had to help in any way I could. It was afterwards I was shaking and had an anxiety-induced asthma attack, but honestly, I’ve been more worried about the driver. I’ve been told the driver is okay, so I am grateful.”
School District 54 later released the following statement:
“On Friday afternoon there was a medical emergency concerning the driver on a school district bus while picking up students at Smithers Secondary.
“Two students courageously got up to provide assistance to the driver, stopping the bus and calling in on the bus radio for help. The school administration and maintenance immediately responded. There were no personal injuries or property damage due the bussing incident.”
The bus driver was transported to the hospital for assessment and observation and was released the next day.
“Despite the fact the School District practices bus safety drills in the event of such emergencies, the School District cannot thank and acknowledge the two students enough for their quick reaction to the emergency situation and helping the bus driver,” said Dave Margerm, secretary/treasurer for SD54.