A western New York bus driver has been lauded as a hero after he interrupted his regular route to rescue a woman who appeared to be preparing to jump off an expressway overpass.
Darnell Barton, 37, of Buffalo, N.Y., was driving south along a highway overpass the afternoon of Oct. 18 with a bus full of high school students when he spotted something that unsettled him. An apparently distressed woman was standing on the other side of the expressway guard rail, and looked as if she might be ready to jump into oncoming traffic.
"As I'm driving I see a young lady on the wrong side of the guard rail," Barton told ABC News. "So I stopped the bus, opened the door and tried to make contact with her," he said.
The remarkable event was captured on video by the bus's surveillance camera, which shows Barton pulling over to the side of the road upon seeing the woman on the other side of the railing at the edge of the overpass.
"Ma'am, are you OK?" Barton repeatedly asked the woman, who didn't seem to respond at first. Barton then exits the bus, walks over to speak with the woman calmly, taking her by the hand as she climbs back over to the other side of the railing.
According to Barton, after the woman did not respond to his initial questions, a female student on the bus began to cry. "I don't want to see anybody die today," she said, according to Barton.
"That kind of sparked me to you know, jump into action if you will," said Barton, who walked over to the woman. "Do you want to come back onto the right side of the guard rail?" he asked. The distressed woman did as Barton suggested, climbing back onto the correct side of the rail.
"You smell good," she reportedly told Barton.
Barton become something of an impromptu counselor, sitting with the woman for several minutes on the curb, offering words of encouragement.
"I grew up a church guy, I grew up in a church so in the background I heard my mom's voice, so I basically told her you know there is nothing that serious, and where she was was a dangerous place, but you can come back from that and nothing could be that bad," Barton said.
Barton says the young woman did not reveal who she was or why she was apparently contemplating the jump. Authorities eventually arrived on the scene, and a professional counselor spoke with the apparently distressed woman.
"In our minds he is a hero," said Doug Hartmayer, director of public affairs for the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority, which owns and operates the bus Barton drove. "He considers it fate, that god placed him there and give him the strength and ability to do the right thing," he said.
"He is a grounded individual. He is a very humble individual. He is also a very courageous individual, who with very little time to think about what to do, reacted, and in a very calm way was able to bring the young lady back over the guard rail into harm's way," Hartmayer said.
Barton received a round of applause from the high school students on the bus after the ordeal.
"If you have time to do anything, you've got time to do the right thing," Barton said, recalling advice a recently deceased driver had shared with him. "And now that he's passed away, I really take that more to heart."