Monday, December 17, 2012

Rankin School Board honors teen heroes

The Rankin County School Board honored several students who prevented disaster. The Clarion-Ledger reported: 

"In early November, a situation that could have been a disaster was averted by an unlikely trio.

On Wednesday, the Rankin County School District recognized Isabella Hopkins, 12, and Matthew Melton and Preston Jennings, both 17, for their quick thinking that kept untold calamity at bay Nov. 8 when a district school bus was involved in a wreck.

Officials said an SUV ran a red light and hit the bus, which was carrying almost 30 children. The bus kept moving, its driver knocked unconscious by the impact.

Isabella and Matthew ran to the front of the bus almost immediately.

“We didn’t see what happened, but we did see everybody go flying the other way,” said Isabella. “That’s pretty much what I saw, then I reacted.”

The seventh-grader’s reaction was to flip over the now empty bus driver’s seat to where she could reach the brake pedal.

“I had just learned how to stop a four-wheeler, so I was comparing a four-wheeler to the bus, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, the brakes… But I don’t know where it is!’ ” she said. “Then I looked where the emergency brake is on the four-wheeler, and I just pressed it. Then I pressed the real brake. I almost pressed the gas, but I didn’t.”

At the same time, Matthew was checking on the bus driver.

“She was not in her seat, so I wanted to find out where she was, because my initial thought was, ‘The bus driver can stop the bus,’ ” the Brandon High School junior said.

Not knowing whether Isabella would be able to reach the brake, he threw the bus out of gear and took the key out of the ignition.

“But seeing her passed out on the floor, I thought, ‘Well I don’t think she’s going to wake up anytime soon,’ so I put the bus in neutral because we were headed toward a pole. When we cleared the pole, we were headed toward cars, and I didn’t want to hit any more cars and cause any more injury.”

The two worked as a team though they didn’t speak a word. It was all instinct, they said.

When Isabella applied the brake, it jolted the bus so much that it threw her petite body into the air. Her knee was injured to the point she was still on crutches Wednesday when she was recognized

That same morning, Preston, a Brandon High School senior, was driving to school. He said he was on Mississippi 18 when he saw the red light, and he had begun to slow down.

“I just saw the bus with smoke flying across the road in front of me. It kept going then it stopped, and I thought about it and I was like, ‘This did not just happen,’” he said. “So I pulled off and when I got out there were people running to the bus, but nobody was running to the truck. So I ran to the truck.”

That’s where Preston found the driver of the SUV unconscious, at least for a moment. He took off his undershirt and began to apply pressure to a 2- to 3-inch cut on the man’s forehead.

“He kept trying to get out of the vehicle, but I was scared he had injuries on his body we didn’t know about, like his neck could have been broken,” Preston said. “He kept trying to get out and walk, he wasn’t happy. I kept him calm until the EMT got there, and he took over.”

During that time, Preston said, two nurses told him he was doing the right thing. The injured driver was in pain, but there was calm in the storm.

“He’s covered in blood, and one of the nurses came up there and said, ‘Can we say a prayer for you?’ and he stopped screaming, and just looked at her like, ‘Yeah,’” Preston said. “She put her hand on him and said a prayer. When she said ‘Amen,’ he started screaming again. But for that time that she said that prayer, it was like nothing happened.”

Both boys said their calm in the chaos came, at least in part, from training they had received from the JROTC program at BHS. Isabella said she had only learned about the brakes on the four-wheeler the previous weekend.

Assistant Superintendent Ray Mann said the teens went above and beyond what was expected." <a href="http://www.clarionledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012312130001">Article</a>

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