A quick-thinking and alert high school student in Washington state is being hailed as a hero this week after he jumped into action to wake a school bus driver who appeared drowsy and was driving erratically.
Emmanuel Williams, a 17-year-old senior at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Wash., was on board his school bus headed home Monday with about 24 fellow Tahoma High students when he noticed the bus swerve several times as it traveled northbound on Interstate 5.
When Williams, seated near the front of the bus, saw the driver, a 65-year-old male, miss the exit and start to nod off, he took action.
“I was looking at him and his eyes would close, and when we’d get to a turn, he’d look both ways, start driving again, and they would close more and more,” Williams told local ABC affiliate KOMO.
“As soon as I see his head go down, and I see the bus go back to the freeway, I hop up, get to the front of the bus as fast as I can,” he said.
Video captured by the bus’ surveillance camera shows the teen spring to his feet to come to the driver’s side. Grasping the hand of the driver, Williams looks into his face to make sure he’s awake, and then sits in the row directly behind the driver.
While Williams never grabbed the wheel of the bus, he was able to keep the situation under control, and his fellow passengers safe, by continuing to talk to the driver and monitor his actions.
Once the driver was alert, he put on the brakes. No one was hurt in the incident.
“Something would have happened if I didn’t get up,” Williams told KOMO. “I know that there would have been a big huge thing going on because he would have crashed and it would have been a whole lot more than what it is now.”
A representative for the Tacoma Public Schools District said district officials contacted Durham School Services, the Illinois-based company that services the district’s buses, immediately upon learning of the problem, and the company sent a replacement driver.
The district told KOMO the driver had a clean driving record and was an eight-year veteran driver with Durham School Services. The driver was removed from the route and placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by both the district and the company.
“Certainly, safety is very important to us and to the families involved, and we want to get to the bottom of it and make sure nothing like this happens again,” Dan Voelpel of Tacoma Public Schools told KOMO. “It’s unusual. It’s not something we’ve dealt with before.”
School and company officials are also awaiting the results of drug and alcohol tests submitted by the driver after the incident.
No information was made available on the status of the driver, or any pre-existing medical conditions that might have led to his drowsiness while driving.