CARUTHERS, Calif. — A school bus driver here was hailed a hero and honored on Monday for an incident in November in which she thwarted an attempt by a man to hijack her school bus.
Salena Torres was recognized as the North Region School Bus Driver of the Year by the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and the California Department of Education. Warren Stanley, the CHP’s commissioner, presented Torres with the award, according to the CHP’s Facebook page. The company she drives for, Southwest Transportation Agency, also received an award from the commissioner.
In addition to Torres’s record of having driven for the company for over 18 years and more than 232,000 miles without being involved in a crash, she was also recognized for the way she handled a situation in late 2018, KFSN reports.
As previously reported, on Nov. 5, Torres had to fend off a man who boarded her bus when it was stopped at a gas station in Fresno, said that he was going to drive the bus to a mission, and grabbed her by the collar to pull her from the driver’s seat. Torres said that the man walked from the front to the back of the bus telling students that if they wanted to see Jesus, “He was at the San Gabriel Mission and he was … taking them there.”
Torres took the keys from the ignition and hid them, KFSN reported in November. She also told the man that the bus was not in commission, which was why they were pulled over, KSEE reports. Upon receiving the award, she also said that she had called for backup and confronted the man. Soon after, as previously reported, he was taken into custody and charged with attempted carjacking.
Torres told KFSN that her motherly instincts kicked in during the incident, and that “You are the main thing they see in the morning before they go to school and probably the last thing they see before supper."
She was also presented with the CHP Commissioner’s Medal of Distinction, which is given to people who make great contributions to the state, according to KFSN.
View a photo from the CHP's Fresno Facebook page of Torres receiving the award below.