“I did what I did because I love my kids:” Florida school bus driver saves 40 students from fire

PALM BAY, Fla. – A West Melbourne principal said that were it not for the quick actions of a school bus driver, 40 students may never have returned home.

Imagine Schools in West Melbourne, a pre-K-12 charter school, Janet O’Connell said he saw smoke coming from the hood of his bus just ten minutes into his career following his dismissal on Tuesday afternoon.

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Principal Brian DeGonzague said O’Connell quickly pulled up near Emerson Drive and Tillberg Avenue in Palm Bay and started dropping the 40 children, in K-6, off the bus.

” SM. Janet, when there’s a baby in need, she comes forward, ” DeGonzague said.

The principal said he believes it was an electrical fire.

Degonzague said the charter school operates its own buses and inspects them every day.

He described the fire as being spontaneous in nature.

“It looked like something that could happen to any vehicle,” he said.

The school said the fire destroyed the camera on the bus, so there is no video.

Lori Chase, who lived near where the bus first stopped and started smoking, recorded video of the first flames after O’Connell and the students evacuated.

DeGonzague said the bus driver was as humble as ever in response to the attention he is now receiving.

When I told her about this, she said, ‘Brian, I did what I did because I love my kids.’ He doesn’t want the spotlight on her, but what he did was really amazing, ” he said.


The school said O’Connell had returned to work on Wednesday driving a different bus.

The school hopes to replace the wrecked bus.

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