Hometown Hero Credited with Saving Students' Lives

By Melanie Chapman | mchapman@kolr10.com

Published 11/13 2013 07:53PM

Updated 11/13 2013 08:02PM

ROLLA, Mo. -- A bus driver from the Rolla Public School District is being credited with saving the lives of about 40 students.

Police released video of his bus narrowly avoiding a collision with an out of control tractor-trailer.

67-year-old Don Lewis has been driving a bus for Rolla schools three years. The kids call him Don, or Mr. Bus Driver.

But, when Don was driving about 40 kids to school one September morning, their lives were threatened.

As they were going along a frontage road, a tractor-trailer on I-44 lost control, fell to its side and hit a guardrail. The guardrail and semi shot into the path of the bus.

“I saw it had turned over on its side by then,” says Don. “And was slowing down but it was pushing right straight across the highway and the back door flew open and all the stuff in there started coming out. So, I just eased it to the right as far as I could and luckily all the busses now have anti-lock brakes. But, I think if the bus wheels would have locked up it would have been a different story.”

Police say because of Don's quick and calm actions he was able to narrowly avoid a collision.

The whole time Don had one thing on his mind: making sure the kids on the bus got off safely.

“That’s the main thing right there to protect the kids,” says Don. “I wasn't worried about me getting hurt really.”

A camera on the bus caught it all and when the community saw the video the praises started flowing in.

“I had parents coming in, I had phone calls,” says Sally Droste, the transportation director. “He did a great job. He saved our lives today. It’s a big responsibility. You've got parents; you’ve got their babies on there. And that's a big, big responsibility to take out everyday.”

You can still see the tire and burn marks on the road, a route where Don still drives kids to and from school.

Don will tell you he was just doing his job like all the other drivers, but the kids let him know he did an extra good job that day.
“They were patting me on the back saying good job,” says Don. “So, I feel good about it.”

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