A Florida school bus carrying dozens of students crashed into a small lake. Thanks in part to rescue efforts by a young boy, all 27 students from Mary E. Bryant Elementary went home safe and sound.
Before flipping on its side in the water, the school bus took down a signpost and part of a tree on Thursday in Hillsborough County, located outside of Tampa, according to a report by ABC News.
Immediately prior to his rescue attempt, 10-year-old Nicholas Sierra said he saw the bus driver struggling to bring the vehicle to a stop.
“I saw him stepping on the brakes, but the brakes weren’t working and then everyone started screaming.”
Daily News‘ coverage of the rescue reports that it’s unclear what caused the vehicle to steer off course about 2:20 p.m., near Racetrack Rd. in Odessa, Florida.
Nicholas was a passenger on the bus when the bus driver was about a mile away from the school and the brakes began to fail.
Sierra spoke with reporters about the frightening experience.
“The bus was out of control and I looked at the brakes, and when he kept on stepping on them, they wouldn’t work. And then it just started accelerating and everyone started screaming and crying.”
When the bus fell into the lake, Nicholas started his rescue efforts, saving his peers, one by one.
“I grabbed a kindergartener’s arms, put her around my neck, and brought her to land, and then I went back.”
Passerby Tom Batchilder told WFLA News Channel 8 good samaritans and first responders jumped into the murky waters in their attempt to rescue the children and bus driver.
“I seen a kid, grabbed him, took him to the bank, seen another kid, grabbed him, took him to the bank. I probably grabbed a half dozen.”
Batchilder, who works for a pavement company, said he and his partner Vinnie spread out to make sure the children were being saved from both ends of the submerged bus.
“My guy went over to the driver’s side where the windshield was smashed out. He was taking kids from there bringing them in, and I was taking them from the back door exit and bringing them in.”
Fox 35 Orlando reported an independent mechanic is investigating the school bus to see what went wrong.
Marlene Smith, a mother waiting for her child to be dropped off, saw the crash and immediately sprinted to the scene to rescue everyone she could.
“I couldn’t run fast enough. I just wanted to swim faster, and all I could hear all the voices and all I could think was, ‘I have to get every kid off this bus.’”
[Featured image via Loren Elliott/Zumapress]