Friday, December 9, 2011

Washington State teen praised for saving school bus when driver dozed

A school bus travels down a highway.

A quick-witted State of Washington teen is being hailed as a hero for jumping into action when his school bus driver dozed off on a busy highway.

Emmanuel Williams, 17, was on a bus with about 24 other students Monday when the 65-year-old driver started falling in and out of consciousness, missed an exit and swerved back into traffic, reports said.

Surveillance video of the wild ride shows that Emmanuel shouted, sprang up from his seat and raced three rows forward to rouse the driver before the bus careened into another vehicle or a freeway barrier.

"I'm looking at him the whole time because I don't know what's going on," the senior at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma said at a news conference Wednesday.

"I was looking at him, and his eyes would close, and when we would get to a turn, he would open them up and look both ways, start driving and then ... they would close more and more," he said.

When the bus merged onto Interstate 5, Emmanuel was wide-eyed and hyper alert, the surveillance video shows.

Immediately after the driver missed an exit, the teen made his move.

"As soon as I see his head go down, and I see the bus go back to the freeway, I hop up, get up to the bus (driver) as fast as I can," Emmanuel told local media, including KOMO 4.

The student later took a seat directly behind the driver and continued talking to him to make sure he remained alert, the video shows.

"If something would have happened, if I didn't get up, I know there would have been a big huge thing going on because he would have crashed," Emmanuel said.

Tacoma Public Schools said the driver had an impeccable record during his eight years chauffeuring students.

The driver was removed from the route Monday, given drug and alcohol tests and placed on paid administrative leave, pending an investigation, a schools spokesman told the Daily News.

"Any time the safety and security of our students is jeopardized, that's a serious incident, and we need to get to the bottom of this situation to make sure nothing like it happens again," spokesman Dan Voelpel told The News.

Voelpel heaped praise on the teenager for saving the day.

"Emmanuel said at his press conference that he might want to be a police officer in the future, and certainly they need to have such powers of observation," Voelpel said.

"Clearly we're grateful that Emmanuel was paying attention to the driver's condition and acted very quickly and decisively to wake up the driver before he crashed," he said. 


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