Pictured from left are AA Transportation drivers Hector Vazquez, Mike Ciesluk, Jose Blanco and Edward Bourgault; Julie D'Ambra, director of HR and safety; Ron Ernenwein, president and CEO; and drivers Blanca Lugo, Todd Williams, Robert Amadei and William Hogan.
AA Transportation drivers aid in Boston evacuation
BOSTON — School bus drivers here played a vital role in moving people away from the site of the Boston Marathon bombings in April.
Around 5 a.m. on Monday, April 15, drivers from AA Transportation Co. began their previously scheduled service of shuttling runners to the start of the Boston Marathon. They also transported injured runners from medical tents during the race.
After two bombs exploded near the finish line at 2:49 p.m., the eight AA Transportation drivers — Blanca Lugo, Hector Vazquez, Edward Bourgault, William Hogan, Jose Blanco, Todd Williams, Mike Ciesluk and Robert Amadei — stepped up and responded to the emergency.
AA Transportation President Ron Ernenwein said that although the company office had lost most communication with the drivers, they quickly began working with authorities to transport people away from the site.
“Not one person opted to go home, complained the assignment was too hard or took a break after the 18th hour of shuttling,” Ernenwein wrote in a letter commending the drivers. “The area they were working in was complete mayhem, and with their professionalism, this group brought composure and calm for the folks that they transported.”
Julie D’Ambra, AA Transportation’s director of HR and safety, said that Williams was not far from the explosions as he was driving his bus to the medical tent on Boylston St.
The eight drivers evacuated runners and spectators away from the area, continuing their service into the evening.
“People were literally jumping out in front of their buses to get out of Boston,” D’Ambra said. “Blanca even took some dogs on her bus to get them off the streets.”
Authorities tapped into the school buses’ GPS systems to divert the drivers around roadblocks and get them to those who were stranded.
“I am so impressed with [the drivers],” D’Ambra said. “There was not one who worried about themselves or how tired they were or that they hadn’t eaten or what they would be paid.”
Firefighters and paramedics from three area departments in Illinois are shown how to manually operate a school bus wheelchair lift during training at Durham’s Beach Park facility.
Durham partners with first responders for safety training
Durham School Services recently partnered with Illinois first responders from Newport Township, Beach Park and Zion in a safety training drill for the evacuation of school buses.
Officials said the first responders reached out to Durham, which is a subsidiary of National Express Corp., to learn more about bus safety following a school bus accident in the area. More than 30 local firefighters and paramedics participated in Durham’s training program on bus evacuations in April to better enable them to assist in an emergency on a school bus.
The first responders explored five styles of school buses and could see how each emergency exit worked, including the different door options and roof hatches. They also learned how the wheelchair lifts operate manually in the event of a power loss.
Officials said the experience proved valuable for the first responders, especially those who had never been on a school bus.
“Following the tragic accident involving our school bus near Wadsworth, my team was proud to show the level of training required for each of them to be certified to drive a school bus,” said Rita Maki, general manager of Durham’s Beach Park, Ill., bus facility. “They take their jobs very seriously and appreciate the chance to train others on their equipment in the event it helps a student one day.”
Newport Township Fire Lt. Jeff Fanning, head of the first responders, commended the bus company for the training it provides its employees and thanked the Durham team in Beach Park for sharing its knowledge and experience.