ROOSEVELT, NY — The bus is a charred, burnt-out shell, but the half-dozen young adults with special needs who'd been on board are safe, thanks to the bus driver and bus matron who got the passengers out of harm's way before the bus became a fireball.
The question persists, however: who are the bus operators who did the right thing and saved vulnerable lives?
Around 10:00 a.m. Monday morning, the bus pulled up in front of a home on Bennett Avenue here to pick up a 24-year-old with special needs. The bus started emitting smoke.
When the driver saw it, he and the bus matron started removing the six other special needs passengers.
"He got the kids off the bus and took them all the way to the back," said Ben Garr, father of the passenger who was about to board the bus, as he pointed to his backyard, where the bus driver led the young people in his care.
"The bus just caught on fire," said Preston Glover, the brother of the young woman who'd been waiting to board when the bus began to smoke. "All of a sudden, it just burst into flames."
A fire chief from the local firehouse of the Roosevelt Fire Department responded quickly, Garr said, adding, however, that "the chief came, [but] he had no access."
Essentially, according to Garr and other witnesses, the chief had to watch the bus burn until a fully-manned fire engine could arrive. Roosevelt is a volunteer fire department, and it's prohibited from sending out fire units until they have full crews.
The chief ensured that there were no injuries, and, according to Garr and other witnesses, the chief informed them that because the bus was powered by diesel fuel, it would burn heavily and heatedly, but would not explode. Gasoline, on the other hand, the chief told witnesses, would explode.
The chief proved to be correct, and acted appropriately, witnesses said, even though "we waited 25 minutes before they extinguished it," said Garr.
As for the driver, his name remains a mystery. PIX11 contacted the Guardian Bus Company of Oceanside, Long Island, which said that it would let the bus driver know that he was being sought for comment and recognition by people with whom he's credited with saving lives, or at least getting them out of the way of potentially deadly harm.
There's been no response yet from the driver.