Twenty children escaped a burning school bus with their lives thanks to their cool-headed bus driver who leapt into action, authorities say.
Dramatic dash cam video capturing the aftermath of Monday’s rescue in College Park, Maryland, shows the evacuated Glenarden Woods Elementary School bus completely engulfed in heavy smoke and flames.
Driver Renita Smith said she had just finished her third or fourth stop when the bus abruptly started smoking. She started to call for a backup vehicle when flames appeared toward the back.
“I put the mic back down, undid my seatbelt, jumped up, got my babies and got off,” she told ABC News.
“Once we got off, neighbors kicked right into ‘Mommy mode,’ as I call it, and helped the kids get to a safe haven. When that was going on, I ran back onto the bus to make sure there was no children on the bus,” she said. “By the time I got to the last step on the bus, it just went up in smoke.”
Parent Fazlul Kabir, who identified Smith in a Facebook post, lauded her efforts as a hero.
“Not only Reneita took (sic) each one of the 20 kids from the bus one by one, but also went into the empty bus again to check if everyone was out, while it was still burning,” he wrote.
“I am a mom of two kids,” Kabir quoted Smith as later telling him. “It’s my job to save them.”
In a statement, Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County, Maryland Fire and EMS Department, credited her with remaining calm throughout the ordeal which left no people injured.
The fire, which is believed to have originated from near one of the rear wheels, remains under investigation as of Wednesday morning.
“We are looking at an accidental cause,” Brady told The Huffington Post via email.