By Michelle Lovato
BRIDGEPORT, Wash. — A car making a pass on State Route 17 headed into the path of a Bridgeport school bus carrying 46 teenagers and a few adult chaperones.
The car forced the bus dangerously close to the shoulder of the icy road, and a potential catastrophe was set in motion.
But veteran bus driver Leonard Davis used his training and a cool head to bring the bus under control and prevent injury or death to his precious passengers.
No one in either vehicle was killed or injured.
Many people are calling his actions heroic.
"Leonard Davis did exactly what he was supposed to do," said Bridgeport School District Superintendent Scott Sattler. "I am extremely proud of the manner in which he kept that bus safe for kids. His efforts kept over 50 students and staff members safe that night."
The accident took place Jan. 20 as the Bridgeport High School bus traveled south, about 5.5 miles south of Bridgeport, said Rick Halterman, Bridgeport School District board member, who responded to the emergency call as a member of Bridgeport Ambulance.
Junior varsity and varsity Bridgeport High School basketball teams were traveling with their coaches and chaperones back from a basketball game against Lake Roosevelt High School in Coulee Dam.
As he was trained to do, Davis did not apply his brakes as a car hit the bus' front corner panel. Within seconds, the car turned 45 degrees at a right angle to the bus. As the bus pushed the car southbound across the icy road, the students, coaches and chaperones felt the bus advance toward the sloping side of the road.
A witness behind the bus said as the bus and car slid toward the edge of the highway, the bus raised off two of its tires.
"I was informed that a vehicle was making a pass," said Halterman. "As the vehicle got to the front of the bus, it swerved over into the bus, forcing it toward the shoulder."
The vehicle spun around to the front of the bus, which started pushing the vehicle before the vehicle broke free, went off the road and started rolling, he said.
"The bus continued off the road, down into the ditch leaning to the right," Halterman said. "According to a witness behind the bus, the left side tires came up off the bus as the vehicle was leaning over."
Davis continued driving the bus, not using his brakes, he said.
"Leonard was able to get the bus back on all tires, drive back up the embankment, back up onto the road, bringing the bus to a stop," Halterman said.
Davis' driving skills are considered heroic by many in the small community.
Halterman said in keeping the bus from rolling over the embankment, Davis prevented numerous injuries from occurring.
"Bridgeport School District is very pleased and happy with the outcome and commend not only Leonard but the coaches, Brandon Boyd, Kevin Morris and Stuart Dezellem, who helped get the kids calmed down, checking them to make sure no one was hurt," Halterman said.
The three people riding in the car were also uninjured, he said.
The Bridgeport School Board honored Davis at the Feb. 14 meeting.
This story reprinted with permission from the Quad City Herald.