MADISON TWP., Ohio – A school bus driver is being hailed a hero after her quick thinking and screaming alerted two children to the threat of a chain-reaction accident that took place feet from where they were standing.
The crash happened just after 4 p.m. Thursday in the 7000 block of Franklin Madison Road in Franklin.
Officials at the scene said the bus was unloading two students from Madison Elementary School. At the same time, a 1996 Honda Civic driven by 69-year-old Robert Krause was stopped in front of the school bus while the students were beginning to cross the street.
Authorities said a pickup truck traveling in the opposite direction slammed on its brakes to avoid hitting the car.
The driver of the truck was later identified as 21-year-old Cody Greene.
Greene rear-ended Krause's car, which crashed into the front of the bus, officials said.
"I need at least one, maybe two ambulances here. I had an accident where hit my school bus,” Russell Thompson, the father of two of the 10 children on board the bus at the time of the accident, could be heard saying on the original 911 call. “You might need to get a couple ambulances here."
Lt. M. J. Hamilton of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said May Wooldridge, 56, had initially given the students the signal to cross, but then realized the truck would be unable to stop. She quickly motioned and yelled for them to get back off the road just in time.
Skid marks from the truck were about 150 feet long, officials said.
WCPO reporter Natasha Williams spoke with Thompson who saw the near-nightmare happen.
The father of Leah, 6, and Zayden, 9, saw the truck come over a hill, head right into the back of the car, and watched as the truck slammed into the back the car, forcing it to smash right into his daughter's school bus.
"I heard my wife yell, she was watching out the window," Thompson recalled. "She'd seen it coming -- the truck was about to hit the bus, (my wife screamed), 'it's going to hit our kids,' I jumped up and ran outside."
Wooldridge's yelling and the training she has given the kids kept this bad crash from becoming a tragedy, Thompson believes.
"She yelled and my youngest hesitated." he said. "She was within a foot of being hit but because she was watching the bus driver, she hesitated and jumped back."
Leah was hit in the leg by a piece of flying debris, but was treated at the scene. None of the other children were hurt.
Krause was sent to Atrium Medical Center with non-life-threatening injuries. Greene was not hurt.
Wooldridge suffered minor injuries and went to a local hospital late Thursday night to be treated for stiffness in her back and neck, according to AJ Huff, coordinator of school-community relations for Madison Local Schools. She has since been released.
Despite her injuries, Wooldridge is expected to return to work Monday. When she does, she'll be treated as a hero.
"She didn't even have time to protect herself from the car, so she was more worried about the kids then she was herself," Thompson said about Wooldridge, a driver with Petermann LLC since 2008.
She has also received praise from the school district for her actions that led the two elementary school students to safety.
“As a district we are extremely proud of Mary, as well as the two students, for following protocol that resulted in the girls watching the driver and waiting for her direction to cross the street,” wrote Huff in a release from the school.
“Luckily, Mary was aware of the accident that was about to happen and thought quickly to instruct the girls to run back to safety on the side of the road. If not for Mary's quick decision-making and the girls paying close attention to the instructions of their driver, this accident could have ended much differently.”
No alcohol or drugs were a factor in the crash, but Greene was cited for failing to maintain assured clear distance ahead.
The accident remains under investigation.