School bus driver praised for helping 23 students off burning bus

Published: Apr. 2, 2023 at 2:09 AM CDT
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THERMAL, Calif. (KESQ) - A California school bus driver is being credited with helping to get nearly two dozen students off a burning bus.

A burned-out shell of a school bus is all that’s left after a fast-moving fire Friday morning. Coachella Valley Unified School District officials credit the bus driver – and training – for keeping the 23 students on board safe.

“It just speaks to the priority of our students’ safety, and our drivers are trained to make sure that they are able to respond to these types of situations,” said Veronica Zepeda, the school district’s budget director.

According to Zepeda, the school bus driver saw smoke from the rear of the bus about 8:40 a.m. as she headed to Toro Canyon Middle School. She pulled the bus over and called dispatch to report the smoke. Soon after, she called and said there were flames, and she evacuated the students.

“The driver is very shaken up. We made sure that she knew that she did an amazing job. Nobody was hurt,” Zepeda said.

District officials say all the students on the bus made it to school safely.

“They were greeted with a breakfast from their school site, and they had access to our social-emotional therapy staff on site if they needed it,” Zepeda said.

Cal Fire says the bus driver was evaluated but refused any further treatment.

“We want to thank her actions. She acted swiftly, and because of her actions, she was able to think quickly and swiftly,” said Gustavo Paiz, the school district’s director of safety and security.

District officials say all their bus drivers receive a minimum of 10 hours of training annually. Bus evacuation drills that include students take place in October.

The cause of the bus fire is still under investigation.