NEW YORK — An off-duty police officer saved a school bus driver and an aide from a burning bus on Thursday, authorities said.

According to the New York Police Department (NYPD), Officer Christopher Canale was driving with his family on the Long Island Expressway around 3:30 p.m. when he saw a small school bus and a truck that were involved in an accident.

Police said that the bus was engulfed in flames and smoke when Canale pulled his vehicle to the side of the highway. He pulled the bus door open and saw that the driver was pinned. Canale asked how many occupants were on the bus.

“As a father of two, the first thing that went through my mind was, are there any children on the bus?" Canale recalled.

Canale was off duty and driving with his family when he came upon the burning bus.

Canale was off duty and driving with his family when he came upon the burning bus.

The driver told the officer that there was only one other person, an aide, on the school bus. Canale yelled to the aide — he said that he couldn't see because of the thick smoke. The aide followed the officer’s voice down the bus aisle, and she safely exited the bus.

Canale then went to the driver’s side door and was able to pull the driver free from the bus.

Canale was praised for his actions by the NYPD and by Riverhead (N.Y.) Central School District, the bus driver and aide's employer.

"The actions of the off-duty police officer who rescued our employees yesterday at great personal risk to himself are selfless and heroic," Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney said in a statement to local media on Friday. "On behalf of the entire school district, I cannot thank him enough."

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