Pell City teen steers school bus from danger, saves students on board

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PELL CITY, Ala. (WIAT) — A Pell City High School student is being hailed as a hero after he steered a school bus to safety when the driver collapsed behind the wheel, helping to save the lives of 38 children on board.

Jesse Frank was riding the bus home last month, when he says he noticed his driver was acting differently.

“I looked back at her and she had her head rolled back, hands off the steering wheel, and I was like, yeah, I should do something,” Jesse said.

He got up from his seat, bolted to the front of the bus, and steered the bus off the roadway. He then used his hands to push down the brake, stopping the bus. Jesse called 911 and waited for help to arrive before removing his hand from the pedal.

“It didn’t seem that complicated in my head. I just planned out a few simple steps. I didn’t think it would be that hard to execute them,” said Jesse.

Jesse, who has been a ROTC student while at Pell City, says he didn’t pause to think. He just acted. In the aftermath, he comforted some of the younger students on the bus who were frightened by the close call.

“There were several elementary students crying. One of them asked to borrow my cell phone to make a phone call to their parents,” he said.

The bus driver suffered a medical emergency behind the wheel, and while she is off the road right now, is expected to make a full recovery. Thanks to Jesse’s swift action, no one was hurt.

His principal, Tony Dowdy, says Jesse exemplified the best part of his student body.

“There was no surprise, you know, if there was anybody out there who could go out there and take an action, he would be the one at the front of the list,” said Dowdy.

At a recent City Council meeting, Mayor Bill Pruitt presented the quick-thinking teen with a key to the city. Jesse says all the attention is unexpected, but helps him put things in perspective as he approaches graduation in May.

“It gives me an expectation to meet, in a good way,” he said.  “Now that eyes are on me, in a manner of speaking, I feel like I’ve got to represent myself.”

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