DARLINGTON COUNTY, S.C. — A school bus driver and dozens of students were able to safely evacuate from their bus after it was involved in a crash and before it caught fire, authorities said.
Corporal Sonny Collins from the South Carolina Highway Patrol told WMBF that at around 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday the bus was stopped at railroad tracks when a Buick struck the bus from behind and caught fire, spreading flames to the bus. Collins added that the driver of the car was taken to a nearby hospital.
Darlington County School District said in a Facebook post that the bus was traveling along McIver Road while transporting 34 students to Brunson-Dargan and Cain Elementary schools (Officials later reported on Wednesday that there were 40 students on board). Emergency responders were called to the scene, everyone was checked out after getting off the bus, and no injuries were reported. The district also noted that parents of the students on the bus were notified immediately following the crash.
On Wednesday, Darlington County School District held a press conference to honor bus driver Bernadine Reed for her quick actions, ensuring the safety of students.
“Ms. Reed is one of our faithful employees that are out there caring for kids, and most importantly doing their job because they care about kids,” Dr. Tim Newman, the superintendent of Darlington County School District, said at the press conference.
Reed, who has only been employed with the district for 45 days, recalled her experiences rescuing the students, and said that she was first made aware of the smoke on the bus by a student on board.
“A little girl from the back of the bus came up to me and said 'it's smoking,'" Reed said at the press conference.
Reed added that her only thought at the time was getting all of the students off the bus, and that she doesn't consider herself a “hero" for her actions, but rather a “mother that got 40 kids off a bus to safety.”
After the incident, Reed resumed driving her normal routes with a new replacement bus, according to the district.