A school bus driver steered a bus carrying 38 students to safety while dying of a reported heart attack yesterday.
Lee Chih-ming (李志明), 60, was driving a school bus full of students from Shu-te Home Economics and Commercial High School through the intersection of Jhengjhong Road and Jianwu Road in Greater Kaohsiung’s Sanmin District (三民) when the bus began to swerve to the right after he is said to have suffered an acute myocardial infarction.
The bus then sideswiped a minivan belonging to a local resident, surnamed Ho (何), parked at 165 Jianwu Rd and seven more parked motorcycles before coming to a stop in front of a residence at 93 Jianwu Rd. Luckily, there were no moving vehicles or pedestrians on the stretch of road at the time.
No other injuries or deaths were reported, while Lee, who reportedly died after ensuring the safety of the students, was the only fatality.
Ho said when he saw his car he thought it was the result of a hit-and-run accident and so hopped on his motorcycle to chase Lee down, only to find Lee slowly bringing the bus to a stop, carefully avoiding any heavily traveled roads before he stopped in front of a private residence with no one present.
“No other casualties or injuries were caused. That was very responsible of him [Lee],” Ho said.
The owner of a nearby oyster noodle stand, surnamed Lin (林), said he attempted to wake Lee up by slapping him in the face through the car window, but Lee was unconscious, though still breathing.
One of the students said his and his schoolmates were clueless as to what was happening to the driver when the bus started swerving right and hitting parked vehicles.
“We only knew that the bus was traveling at an extremely slow speed, and kept bumping into automobiles on the side of the road. Everyone was confused because we were all sitting on the upper deck,” the student said, adding that they followed instructions to pry open an emergency door.
School authorities said Lee had served as a bus driver for the school for approximately a year, and that all 38 students had returned to classes after they were cleared of emotional shock.
Hsieh Min-cheng (謝旻成), a student who sat in the back of the bus during the accident, expressed gratitude to Lee.
“I am truly grateful to the driver, who, despite being at the last moment of his life, fought to keep us safe,” Hsieh said. “He was a courageous man.”
Kaohsiung City Government’s Fire Bureau Dachang Branch said Lee, who did not show any vital signs at the time, was rushed to a hospital after firefighters removed him from the bus through an emergency door.
Lee was pronounced dead after emergency treatment failed to resuscitate him, the branch said.
According to Lee’s wife, her husband did not have a history of cardiac problems and only recently complained about stomach irritation.
The Kaohsiung City Motor Vehicles Office dispatched officials to ascertain the cause of the accident and determine liability.