Hero School Bus Driver Credited With Saving 40 Students After Bus Catches Fire

Mason Joseph Zimmer
firefighters douse burning school bus
Facebook | Palm Bay Fire Rescue

Life is often a roll of the dice and the quickest way to realize that is to reflect on the people we deal with every day.

But while our families, our coworkers, and the teachers we had growing up are often the first things that come to mind to exemplify this reality, it can be easy to underestimate how much our childhood school bus drivers impacted our lives.

Sure, some folks might not even remember who drove them to school as children, but others can either remember having a rough time with a particularly cranky one or meeting one who legitimately made a difference when they experienced a tragedy.

Of course, that relationship becomes a lot harder to forget for those who went through something a lot more serious than the bus breaking down together. Because in those perilous moments, students get a firsthand lesson as to how dedicated the bus driver is to keeping them safe.

And there are now 40 kids in Florida who know know that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

On May 3, Janet O'Connell was in the beginning stages of her route that would've seen her drive a busload of kids to an Imagine Schools location in West Melbourne, Florida.

school bus on fire amid palm trees in Florida
Facebook | Palm Bay Fire Rescue

And according to People, she had about 40 kids ranging from kindergarten to grade six aboard when she noticed smoke starting to come out of the hood of the bus.

As we can see here, that smoke would end up heralding a serious blaze that would engulf the front of the bus and damage the rest of it.

But before that fire had a chance to threaten anyone, O'Connell pulled over and immediately started evacuating the bus.

school bus with melted room as seen from the back doors
Facebook | Palm Bay Fire Rescue

And as a representative from the school said in a statement, the children were also diligent about escaping and supported each other on the way out.

But as school principal Brian DeGonzague told it, the situation could have turned out very differently if O'Connell wasn't behind the wheel.

In his words, "When there's a child in need, she steps up."

As we can see, crews from the Palm Bay Fire Rescue would end up neutralizing the blaze and no injuries were reported.

firefighters douse burning school bus
Facebook | Palm Bay Fire Rescue

As for what started the fire, DeGonzague told WKMG-TV he believes it had electrical origins and occurred spontaneously despite regular inspections from the charter school, who manage their own buses.

As he said, "It looked like something that could happen to any vehicle."

But while O'Connell is been hailed as a hero for her role in saving the children's lives, her attitude towards the situation is more humble.

school bus with smoldering engine being doused by firefighters
Facebook | Palm Bay Fire Rescue

As DeGonzague put it, "’When I spoke to her about it, she said, ‘Brian, I did what I did because I love my kids.’ She doesn’t want the spotlight on her, but what she did was pretty incredible."

h/t: People