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Student Hero Takes the Wheel
September 18 was just another school day for young Oakridge Middle School sixth-grader Jackson Bonar. Little did he know he would be called to perform an act of heroism. At 6:02 p.m., Robert Kelly was driving school bus 742, an 84-passenger rear engine "pusher," northbound on Weber Boulevard, nearing the last stop on the afterschool run. Only Jackson was left on board.
Jackson noticed the driver slowing down as if to pull over, saying that the last stop was up ahead. That was the driver's final memory before Jackson saw him slump toward the left bus window. Acting quickly, Jackson jumped up and grabbed the wheel. He tried to reach the brake, but was unsuccessful. Jackson then steered the bus into the grass, hitting a chain link fence and stopping the bus. The bus narrowly missed a tree upon its stop.
The student's mother was very close when this occurred and rushed to the scene. Jackson asked his mother to call 911 and to turn off the engine. Even though the onboard camera was not working at the time, GPS evidence shows the bus moving steadily up Weber Boulevard at 28 mph for three blocks and coasting to the left, then off the pavement.
"Because of this brave boy's actions, no one was hurt," said Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart. "I am thankful that Jackson was able to act quickly and I commend his heroic effort to avoid what could have been a tragedy."
"We believe Mr. Kelly was suffering from a medical condition that caused him to take his foot off the accelerator. There were no injuries. The bus and the fence had minor damages," stated David Ogilvie, Transportation Director of Collier District Schools. "Mr. Kelly looks well, feels good, and is hoping to drive again, but that will not happen until it is determined he is fit for duty by the Department of Transportation medical examiner."
The day after the incident Jackson was nominated for the "Do the Right Thing Award" by the Collier County Sheriff's Office and was recognized by his school's news program. On October 12, he will be awarded a certificate by the Golden Gate Fire Department and Florida Highway Patrol and will again be on his school's news cast. Acting on instinct and with the heart of a lion, a boy becomes a local hero.