Milton student steers bus to safety after driver passes out
A 13-year-old Pierce County middle-school student was catapulted to hero status Monday morning when he took control of a school bus after the driver had a medical emergency.
The News Tribune
A quick-acting Milton middle-school student guided his school bus safely off the road Monday morning after the driver had a medical emergency.
With the driver passed out, seventh-grader Jeremy Wuitschick, 13, grabbed the wheel, steered the bus to the curb, pulled the key from the ignition and started chest compressions on the driver. Meanwhile, another student called 911 to get medical aid.
The 43-year-old driver, whose name was not released, was taken to a Tacoma-area hospital, where his condition was described as grave, said Jeff Short, deputy superintendent for Fife Public Schools.
The incident happened about 8 a.m. near the entrance of Surprise Lake Middle School in Milton, Pierce County. The bus was turning in to the school when the driver likely had a heart attack, Short said.
"The bus driver starts convulsing, his eyes are bulging ... making weird rasping noises and his hands are twitching," Jeremy told KING5.
Surveillance video from the bus showed the driver slump in his seat, apparently unconscious. Students could be heard yelling, "Call 911! Call 911!" "Stop the bus!" and "Take the keys out of the ignition!"
"I was just thinking I don't want to die," Jeremy said. So he "grabbed the wheel. I turned to the right. Turned to the side of the road. Took the keys out of the ignition. We started slowing down, and I said, 'Somebody call 911!' "
The bus hit a curb, bumping and finally slowing.
Then, Jeremy started chest compressions on the driver before another student, Johnny Wood, who is trained in first aid by the Red Cross, hurried to the front of the bus to help.
"I ran up and tried doing chest compressions," Johnny told KIRO-TV, "but his eyes were rolling back and I could tell it was getting harder for him to breathe."
Milton police received several calls about an erratically driven school bus, and a nearby officer showed up quickly. A Fife school administrator saw what was happening and pulled over after Jeremy got the bus stopped.
The 12 students on the bus were escorted off as the administrator started CPR on the bus driver.
Police Chief Bill Rhoads credited Jeremy's quick thinking with getting the bus pulled over safely. The bus didn't hit any other vehicles, and no one was injured.
"We're just happy the kid was thinking on his feet," Rhoads said. "(He did) a great job."
Middle-school students who ride the bus go over emergency procedures a couple of times a year, Short said. They learn what to do if the driver becomes incapacitated and how to get off the bus safely.
"It's just for this type of situation," Short said. "I think they did an outstanding job."