MILTON — A dozen students may not have been looking forward to school on the first day back after spring break, but they knew what to do when their bus driver slumped over the wheel unconscious.
Surveillance video shows 13-year-old Jeremy Wuitschick rushing down the aisle and grabbing the wheel on Monday morning as other students yell: “Call 911!”
Wuitschick had noticed the driver was shaking and his arms flailing just as the bus started to pull into Surprise Lake Middle School in Milton, about 30 miles south of Seattle.
Wuitschick saw the driver’s eyes bulging and heard rasping noises.
Students can be heard yelling, “Oh my God!” and “Call 911! Call 911!” on the video, as they realize the bus is out of control. Others cried, “Stop the bus!” and “Take the keys out of the ignition!”
Wuitschick heeded the calls, removing the keys and turning the steering wheel to pull the bus over. The bus slowly came to a stop against the curb.
“I was just thinking, ‘I don’t want to die,”’ Wuitschick said. “I turned to the right. Turned to the side of the road. Took the keys out of the ignition. We started slowing down, and I said, ‘Somebody call 911!’”
Wuitschick and another student, Johnny Wood, who trained in first aid by the Red Cross, started chest compressions on the driver until adults arrived.
Fife Deputy Schools Superintendent Jeff Short said Tuesday he had no update on the condition of the 43-year-old driver, who was hospitalized in “grave condition” Monday. The man’s wife asked authorities not to release any details about him as relatives were being notified, Short said.
The students on the bus met with the principal and counselors, and things were “as normal as we can get” on Tuesday, Short said.
Students are taught what to do — to turn off the ignition — if a bus driver collapses, as part of the safety training. “It’s just for this type of situation,” Short said. “I think they did an outstanding job.”
The bus didn’t hit any other vehicles, and no one was injured. Police Chief Bill Rhoads credited Wuitschick’s quick actions.
“We’re just happy the kid was thinking on his feet,” he said.