HERTFORD, N.C. — A school bus driver was honored with her own day for protecting her passengers in a crash that set their bus on fire.
In a Nov. 12 ceremony, Perquimans County officials named the date “Zita Ferebee Day” for the driver’s heroic actions. Ferebee received a plaque with the official proclamation.
On Oct. 24, Ferebee was shuttling 41 middle-school students on her bus when it was struck by a truck. Richard O’Neal, director of transportation and maintenance at Perquimans County Schools, said the truck initially hit the rear of the bus, sending it off the road into a ditch. Ferebee managed to keep the bus upright, but the situation took a turn for the worse when the careening truck came back and struck the front of the bus.
O’Neal said the truck went up in flames, which then ignited the bus’ engine compartment. With the help of a passerby, Ferebee got all of the students to safety before the fire spread to the rest of the bus. O’Neal said that Ferebee braved the flames and went back through the bus, checking the seats to make sure no child was left behind.
Four people in the truck died as a result of the crash. Students were taken to the nearest hospital to be examined, but none sustained serious injuries.
Ferebee suffered 16 fractured vertebrae in the accident. O’Neal said she is currently undergoing therapy twice a week and should be able to return to work in mid-January.
“Zita did an outstanding job,” O’Neal said. “In the three years she’s been driving for me, she has always been watching out for the kids.”
O’Neal went to visit Ferebee soon after the accident, and he found that she was ready to get back to work.
“She was telling her doctor, ‘I need to get out of here; I need to get back on my bus,’” O’Neal said. “She’s very dedicated.” Ferebee was also honored at a school board meeting on Nov. 28.