School bus crashes into building

Authorities are trying to figure out what caused a bus driver to slam into a northeast Houston building

December 8, 2011 2:25:48 PM PST
It was a scary ride for dozens of students on a bus that crashed along the Hardy toll road Thursday morning. The bus ended up slamming into a building on Crosstimbers before it came to a stop.

The students on the bus were from KIPP 3D Academy and KIPP Dream College Prep. While we still don't know why the driver lost control and hit a building, we do know the children on board responded in a way to which any parent would be proud.

It was a chaotic, frightening scene just off the Hardy toll road -- three dozen students, ranging from kindergarteners to eighth grader, involved in a school bus wreck. Their driver was seemingly unconscious, but through the confusion two of those eighth graders took control.

Francisco De la Cruz and Daniel Ortega first helped the younger children out the back of the bus and then they tended to the injured driver.

"We started giving them their backpacks because they started crying," Francisco said. "So he went to help the bus driver and I was telling the kids to move out of the way so we could get the bus driver out. And we just started helping everybody else."

"She was unconscious. She was bleeding. She was bleeding from her face," Daniel recalled. "I was freaked out. I was so scared."

The boys put those fears aside and kept the other children calm.

"It just came to my mind to help the little kids out and then help myself out later," Francisco said.

Of the children on board, only one was transported to the hospital and has since been released.

Investigators don't yet know what exactly happened. But the private company that owns the bus is among the largest in the country and employs 62,000 bus drivers. They've promised an internal investigation and told me on the phone from their headquarters in Cincinnati that the driver, who has been with them for two years, is a good one.

"She's been a great driver for us," said First Student spokesperson Maureen Richmond. "She came highly recommended and with great skills. Right now it's part of the investigation to figure out what did occur."

At KIPP, they say they teach their kids to be leaders. It's a lesson apparently well learned by the children on the bus, especially the two eighth graders who managed a frightening trip to school.

"Are you a hero?" I asked Daniel.

"The little kids consider me a hero," he responded. "But, yeah, I guess."

The bus company says all employees undergo criminal background and driving history checks before they're hired. They also have 50 hours of classroom and practical training. There are also random drug tests along with semi-annual physical exams. The driver in this case, whose name the company would not release, was a driver for HISD from 1989 to 2002.

The same bus company was involved in a wreck while transporting KIPP students back in April 2010. Ten students suffered minor injuries in that accident.

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