The driver of a school bus carrying 21 students from an intermediate school in North Carolina is being praised for his quick thinking after a suspected intoxicated driver drove into the bus’ path and crashed Tuesday afternoon.
The crash happened near Riverside Drive and Mickey Lane at about 3:30 p.m.
Troopers with the North Carolina State Highway Patrol said the driver of a pickup truck, identified as Tommy Branch, 30, of Mount Airy, was driving while intoxicated. They said he blew a .11 BAC.
After the collision with the bus, Branch’s truck rolled and burst into flames.
Dash camera video of the crash is posted at the end of this story.
Troopers said Branch told them he looked down to search for a CD, and that when he looked up, he realized he had crossed the center line.
Branch is charged with driving left of center and DWI. He was booked and then released on bond.
Following the crash, Mount Airy Schools posted on their Facebook page that “all students and drivers are OK and have been checked out by EMS.”
The school district also commended the bus driver, Joey Thompson, who has 20 years of bus driving experience, in the post.
“Joey Thompson did an amazing job with students. He accounted for all students, contacted emergency services, and notified district officials. He then walked students to a safe area. They were assessed by EMS and returned to Jones Intermediate School.”
The incident was Thompson’s first accident.
While he is being commended for his quick-thinking, Thompson is thanking the local community for stepping up for their role in the ordeal, as well.
Thompson said panic tried to set in first, but said he relied on his instincts and training to get the students to safety after the crash.
“I think adrenaline sets in and I think at that time, panic sits in, but it just gets pushed off to the side,” Thompson said. “I think instinct takes over. Your main concern is making sure those kids are safe and accounted for.”
He said the students remained calm and got off the bus in a single-file line and then followed him up a small hill until emergency responders arrived on scene.
Thompson said the response was a community effort between the first responders and many good Samaritans who stopped to help out.
“Everyone came together as a team,” Thompson said. “It wasn’t just a one man effort, it took everyone as a team and I think everyone did very well.”