Students who helped in bus accident recognized for effort

The School District 55 Transportation Department, last week, recognized two students for their help with other students and a trapped bus driver following the rollover of a bus on Nov. 27.

Blair Geil, a freshman at Sweet Home High School, and James Sylvester, fifth grade at Holley, helped bus driver Ina Lee with the other students, an injured adult and her own escape from the bus.

Geil was sitting on the right side of the bus while Sylvester sat across the aisle, Geil said, when the bus hit the soft shoulder and was pulled down an embankment, along a side road, coming to rest on its right side. Sylvester fell across the bus on top of Geil.

“I made sure all the kids were okay,” Geil said. “Emma (Flanagan), the bus driver who was with us, she was hurt, but I didn’t know what do about her. Ina was hanging sideways and couldn’t get out.”

Geil tried to get her loose, then Sylvester went underneath to see what was wrong, but couldn’t. Geil ended up using a mallet normally used to check air pressure in tires to free Lee. He hit the release button with it while Lee was braced and talking on the radio. When he hit the button, Lee fell out of the driver’s seat holding onto the steering wheel to land on her feet.

Students remained on the bus where it was warmer, while Geil and Sylvester waited outside for police to arrive.

“They were just great,” Lee said. “They just helped me a whole bunch because I was stuck in the seat.”

Lee praised their helping out with the other students and Flanagan.

They followed evacuation and emergency procedures well, and the training for emergencies that students receive paid off.

“Blair just took complete control, and James was there helping him,” Lee said.

The accident took place at about 6:30 a.m. on Nov. 27 on Sodaville-Mountain Home Drive. No citations were issued in the accident, and Lee was back at work by the end of the week.

Flanagan, who was transported to the hospital, is at home recuperating with a fractured vertebrae, Transportation L.D. Ellison said. She will return to when she is ready. Flanagan had been doing a route audit, which is used to time the rout and mapping stops, primarily for use by substitute drivers.