A Richhill mum has hailed the actions of a bus driver after a tree fell on a school bus carrying her twin sons and four other children on Thursday afternoon.
Nicolle McNabb Edgar said the driver deserves high praise for how he reacted to the traumatic incident, despite being injured himself.
The school bus, carrying six pupils from Hardy Memorial, was travelling along the Aghory Road at around 3.20pm when a tree fell on top of it, causing extensive damage.
It is understood it took four people with chainsaws to remove the tree.
Nicolle said she would normally have had three children on that bus, however, her daughter was not on it with her nine-year-old brothers.
She explained: “The boys said the driver sort of saw the tree come and slammed on the brakes and hoped for the best.
“The first thing he shouted was ‘everybody OK?’, to which the children replied ‘yes’.
“He turned around and told everybody to stay in their seats, and that he’ll come to them.
“He went to each child individually and visually looked at them; there were no cuts or bruises from what he could see. He then got them onto the very back of the bus away from the glass at the front.”
Nicolle said he dealt with the situation brilliantly.
While her two boys were checked over by their GP this morning (Friday) – suffering a few minor injuries themselves – the shock of the incident has been a little more difficult to get over.
“One boy,” explained Nicolle, “he said to me afterwards if there’d be a bus on tomorrow and I said ‘I doubt it’. He said, ‘mummy, I’d want you to run me to school anyway’. I suppose that’s an impact of what happened yesterday.
“His own bus driver; he’s had him three to four years and he’s built up that trust with all the children. I know he was off there for about a week and my three didn’t want to get the bus when he was off.
“And the first thing the two boys asked when they got up this morning was if I had heard anything about the bus driver. ‘Is he OK?’ That’s the first thing they asked about him.”
Nicolle said she wasn’t aware of how serious the incident had actually been as it was her two boys who first told her about the crash when they got back home.
“It was actually a neighbour whose daughter was also on the bus who brought the boys home so I wasn’t aware until they told me.
“Trying to get a story out of a nine-year-old, it’s like pulling teeth. ‘We were in an accident’…’well, how bad was it?’ You’re sitting trying to shoehorn this information out of them.
“Whenever I saw them and knew they were fine I thought, ‘well, how bad was this accident? Then they’re telling you ‘a tree fell on the bus and there was a door hanging off’, and all sorts.”
While the horror of what could have been so much worse may stay with them for a while to come, Nicolle says she hopes that in “a couple of days time they’ll build that trust up again to get back on – I think it was just that sort of first day or two”.
Nicolle says they’ll be glad to see their bus driver again, reiterating the recognition he deserves for his actions on Thursday.
A spokesperson for the Education Authority (EA) said: “We can confirm that one of our buses was struck by a falling tree on the afternoon of January 12 whilst transporting children home from school in Co Armagh.
“Thanks to the swift actions of the driver none of the pupils on board were injured, but unfortunately the driver suffered minor injuries and there was also damage to the bus.
“Parents were contacted immediately to make arrangements to collect their child and the bus has now been recovered.”