GREENVILLE, S.C. — A special-needs bus supervisor here recently won a heroism award for her decisive actions when a school bus caught on fire.
The incident took place during a field trip to a children’s museum in Greenville in November of last year. About 100 special-needs students from Greenville County Schools were on the trip.
After dropping off the students, the school bus drivers parked in a line on the side of the road. Melanie MacDonald, a special-needs bus supervisor for Greenville County Schools, noticed an unusual smell when she walked past one of the buses. Suddenly, someone said that they smelled smoke, and MacDonald jumped into action.
“I knew immediately which bus it was,” she said. “I crawled under the bus to assess where the smoke was coming from, and I saw a flame.”
MacDonald is quick to acknowledge the support of two of her colleagues. Cathy Poole, a bus supervisor, started directing drivers to move their buses away. MacDonald doused the flame with a fire extinguisher, while John Weaver, the driver of the burning bus, ran to get a second extinguisher to keep the fire at bay.
“As a safety officer, I knew that as long as I kept the flame down, the fire was not going to spread,” MacDonald said. “It was an electrical fire. I kept dousing for about 15 minutes until the fire department arrived.”
MacDonald’s response to the fire recently earned her the Hero of the Year award from the South Carolina Association for Pupil Transportation.
MacDonald has worked for the Greenville County Schools transportation department for 16 years as a special-needs driver, a safety officer and a trainer. She has been a supervisor for the past five years.
Even after five years as a supervisor, she enjoys going to the Special Olympics to see her former student passengers.
“I love it when they rush up to me and say, ‘Hey, Mrs. MacDonald!’ They still remember who I am,” she said.
MacDonald started driving so she could have the same schedule as her young children. The schedule is good, she said, especially if you have children in school.
“You get the same days off, and you don’t have to worry about day care,” MacDonald said. “Bus drivers really love their jobs because they enjoy working with students and making a difference in their lives. There is no job out there that is as satisfying as driving a special-needs school bus.”