Emergency Exit

Driver, monitor safely evacuate burning bus

EIGHTEEN SCHOOLCHILDREN left through the front door of their bus as the rear burst into flames.

Thanks to two Florida AFT members, a school bus driver and monitor, the children safely escaped a fiery bus on the way to school in May. Driver Augustus Simpson and monitor Dorothy Manning, members of the Orange Education Support Professionals Association in Orlando, evacuated the bus of preschoolers through fifth-graders in minutes.

While nearing the school entrance, Simpson heard a pop and saw a red light on his dash. Manning told him she saw smoke in the back, and said, firmly, “Let’s evacuate the bus now. Let’s go.”

Everyone left through the front door as the bus burned. Firefighters came promptly, Manning says, “but we were already long gone.” Parents took video of the vehicle engulfed in flames.

Union and school officials, as well as parents, are calling the pair heroes.

The driver and monitor have worked together for years. Simpson has driven for the district for 22 years, long enough to remember when a train hit a school bus about a decade ago. Everyone has remained diligent about safety ever since, even the kids who stay quiet as they approach railroad tracks, listening for bells and train whistles.

The pair credit frequent safety training and drills, and they in turn train their riders, some as young as 3. “She’s very good with these kids, you know?” Simpson says. “She lets them know >this is not a joke. Even the babies stay quiet.” Manning says she’s glad her kids remembered what to do.

Although their bus was gutted, Simpson and Manning got right back on a different bus that afternoon.

“We’re like family,” Simpson says. “We’ve got to get the kids home.”

PSRP Reporter, Fall 2015 Download PDF (2.59 MB)
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