Two female bus passengers are credited with averting what could have been a large-scale disaster Friday morning when they quickly and bravely took the wheel of their Amtrak bus traveling at full speed on Highway 101 after the driver suffered a medical emergency and lost consciousness. The women were able to steer the bus to the side of the road and safely bring it to a stop. The driver, a 42-year-old Los Osos man whose name has not been released, was declared dead at the scene.
The incident took place at 7:17 a.m. on northbound Highway 101 at the Santa Maria Bridge, explained Battalion Chief Ed Hadfield with the Santa Maria City Fire Department. The bus, which was carrying nine passengers at the time, had recently departed from a downtown stop and was on its way to Hanford, CA. Hadfield said a short way into the trip the women, sitting towards the front of the bus, witnessed the driver experience an undisclosed medical emergency and slump over in his seat. The bus quickly drifted to the left and began grinding against the highway’s center divider.
The women jumped up, removed the man from his chair, and and one of them took control of the wheel. She steered the bus to the right shoulder, avoiding nearby traffic, and brought it to a stop near the Donovan Road exit, Hadfield said. When emergency crews arrived, they found the driver unconscious and not breathing. He was declared dead at the scene. The names of the women have not been released.
“Our condolences go out to the family of the driver,” said Hadfield, noting that the women’s quick actions helped prevent further injury or death. “We literally dodged a bullet on this one,” he said.