MICHIGAN CITY, Ind. — The 7-year-old girl had been pacing back and forth across the road as Dave Emerson pulled up in his school bus.
The girl and her 9-year-old sister always waited in their mother’s car until Emerson arrived and extended the stop arm. But on this morning in November, the girl ran up to the bus and yelled, “My dad just shot my mom!”
In an interview with SBF, Emerson said at that point, he went “into that mode” where his extensive training kicked in and he did what he needed to do to keep the kids safe while helping the mother, whose hand he could see on the ground next to the car.
Emerson, a bus driver for Michigan City Area Schools for over four years, radioed dispatch for help and secured the bus, instructing the older kids to move the younger kids to the back and wait.
Emerson approached the car and found the older sister talking with 911 on a cell phone. Then someone whom Emerson recognized as a neighbor of the girls pulled up to help, and the bus driver instructed the neighbor to take the girls to their grandparents’ house just up the road.
Emerson took over the 911 call and attended to the mother, describing her wound to the dispatcher and checking her pulse and breathing.
“She’s fading on me fast!” the bus driver said.
Just as the dispatcher instructed Emerson to begin CPR, a firefighter arrived at the scene and took over. Unfortunately, the mom couldn’t be saved.
As police arrived, Emerson got back on the bus to take his passengers to school. Kevin Neafie, the district’s director of transportation, had notified the superintendent and counselors and met them at the school.
“When the bus showed up, the school went into lockdown,” Neafie said. “We weren’t sure where the dad was. But we later learned that he had committed suicide in the grandparents’ driveway.”
At a school board meeting last week, Emerson was honored for his decisive actions to protect the children and assist the mother.
“All of us here look at him as a hero,” Neafie said. “I would say that some drivers wouldn’t know how to handle it the way he did. I wouldn’t wish this on anybody, but I’m glad Dave was there.”
A detailed profile of Emerson and his response to the incident will appear in the January issue of SBF.