Darlington County school bus driver praised as hero
DARLINGTON, S.C. — The children who ride her school bus call their driver, Bernadine Reed, Ms. Bee Bee.
But at a press conference Wednesday, Dr. Tim Newman, superintendent of education for the Darlington County School District, called her a hero. And that’s what a lot of other people are calling her for her quick actions following a school bus accident Tuesday.
Reed evacuated 40 children from her bus after a car hit it and caught fire Tuesday morning. Reed was able to get all of the children off the bus uninjured before the fire spread to the bus.
Firefighters from the Palmetto Rural Fire Department responded to the accident and put the fire out.
The driver of the car was taken to a hospital. South Carolina Highway Patrol Cpl. Sonny Collins said the driver, Nelson Crowley, 29, of Patrick, has been charged with driving too fast for conditions.
The bus was transporting the students, originally reported to number 34, to Cain Elementary and Brunson-Dargan Elementary schools in Darlington when the accident happened at a railroad crossing on East McIver Road about 6:30 a.m., district officials said. The bus had stopped at the crossing as required when the car hit it, Reed said.
Reed has been driving for the district for the past 45 days. “But since about 6:30 yesterday morning, she’s been my hero,” Newman said.
Reed said the bus was at a complete stop when the car hit. She said a little girl who was seated in the back of the bus told her something was smoking immediately after the crash. Reed said she knew at that point she had to act quickly. “My only thought was to get the kids off of that bus,” she said. “All of them were scared, nervous and screaming and crying.”
School bus evacuations are practiced in the district, Reed said. And the children, she said, did exactly as they were supposed to. “I tell them to keep their eyes open,” she said.
But Reed said she does not see herself as a hero. “I don’t see it that way,” she said. “I was just a mother who had to get those 40 kids off of that bus to safety.”
Reed, who lives in Darlington, said she previously worked with special needs children in Maryland. She said her 45 days as a bus driver in Darlington represents her total time as a school bus driver.
Reed said her actions were just part of doing her job. “This is what I do. This is what I love,” she said.
“Having an adult who knows how to react in a time of crisis is critical,” Newman said.
The Darlington County School District has 110 bus drivers operating 90 buses every school day, Newman said. They transport about 60 percent of the nearly 10,000 students who attend public schools in the district, he said.
“They (the drivers) are all heroes for every parent who puts a child on a bus every day,” Newman said. “They are doing this job because they care about kids.”
Later in the day Tuesday, Reed got back behind the wheel of another bus and drove her students home.
She was back at work Wednesday, and after Wednesday’s press conference, she left driving a bus to run her afternoon route.