ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. — On April 18, Krystle Cushing, a 20-year-old bus attendant for RichLee Vans Inc., rushed out of her special-needs bus to rescue a child who had ridden his tricycle into oncoming traffic on a six-lane highway.
Cushing, who was six months pregnant at the time, was riding with school bus driver Alex Maliwanag after their last stop of the day in a local trailer park in Des Plaines. The 4-year-old boy was riding his tricycle in the middle of the single-lane road in front of the bus, headed toward the park’s front entrance while the bus followed at a safe distance.
The child did not respond when Maliwanag honked the bus’ horn to get his attention. “He looked back at us a few times, but didn’t think anything of it,” Cushing said. Instead, he proceeded to pedal across two lanes of the adjoining 45-mile-per-hour highway.
Without hesitating, Cushing opened the bus door, ran down the steps and into the street, and grabbed the child from his tricycle as a semi truck approached. The semi driver cut the engine in order to bring the vehicle to an emergency stop and slammed on the brakes, halting within about a foot of the boy and Cushing. “I remember they were honking at him, but he was just waving — he didn’t understand,” she said.
After getting the child and his tricycle out of the street, Cushing asked him how old he was and where he lived, but he spoke only Spanish, so she was unable to determine where to return him. Cushing took the boy to the first few trailers along the street he had been riding on, but none of the residents knew the boy or where he lived.
Meanwhile, Maliwanag called the bus dispatcher back at RichLee Vans, letting her know what had happened and that Cushing would take the child to a friend’s house in the trailer park, phone the police and remain on the scene until the situation was resolved. Cushing brought the child’s tricycle and left it outside of her friend’s house as a marker for anyone who might be wandering the neighborhood searching for the boy.
Just as police arrived, the boy’s aunt and grandmother approached the house with other relatives who had been searching the area. After hearing the story of the rescue from a policeman, the grandmother said that she had been babysitting the child for her daughter. She said that he escaped when she left him temporarily unsupervised.
Cushing got home around 5:20 p.m. and began to experience severe abdominal pain. She went to the hospital, where doctors told her she was experiencing premature labor contractions and that the baby’s heart rate had dropped slightly.
After three hours of observation, the contractions stopped, the baby’s heart rate returned to normal and Cushing was sent home for three days of bed rest. She said the doctors at the hospital believed it was the stress of the incident that caused the contractions.
When she visited her doctor in the following days, Cushing was diagnosed with a bruised pelvis due to the force created by the baby’s weight as she ran during the rescue. Although she was in some pain, Cushing was able to return to work on the fourth day after the incident.
At a luncheon held in Cushing’s honor, John Knoelke, vice president of RichLee parent company Cook-Illinois Corp., presented her with a certificate of recognition and a $100 Visa gift card.
“Once I was able to sit down and actually think about what I did, it’s kind of scary because I still don’t remember my feet actually touching the steps to get off the bus,” Cushing explained. “As I was running towards the kid, all I was thinking was, ‘I’m not going to get to him in time — I’m going to see him get run over.’”
Cushing has been a bus attendant at RichLee Vans since September 2007. She said that she hopes to some day begin a career in childcare. Her baby is due in July.