Bus driver reunited with quick thinking students

February 11, 2012

On Jan. 17, Merideth Cole, bus driver for the Hood River County School District, was injured when her bus rolled forward while she was repairing a broken tire chain.

Cole was pinned by the door, trapping her between the bus and embankment as she attempted to get back on the moving bus. Four elementary students were on board.

The incident happened just after 3 p.m. on Highway 35 near Odell.

"How are my kids?" were Cole's first words to Mike Green, who was first to arrive.

Hood River County Sheriff's Office, Odell Fire Department and Oregon State Police troopers responded to the scene, and with the assistance of Hood River Towing, were able to lift the front end of the bus enough to enable rescue crews to free Cole's trapped leg.

The four students on board, who all attend Parkdale Elementary, witnessed the accident. They acted quickly, and were able to prevent further injury by engaging the emergency air brake and bringing the bus to a stop.

Students receive annual trainings on how to respond to emergency situations on a bus. This training may have saved a life, according to Bob Dais of Hood River County School District.

Cole was treated at Emmanuel Legacy Hospital in Portland and is currently home after her two-week hospital stay.

"The students and fellow drivers are looking forward to her return to work," Dais said.

Last Monday evening a dinner was held to celebrate Cole's recovery. The children had not seen Cole since the accident.

The dinner was organized by Cindy Sim, transportation supervisor, who was among the first on the scene of the accident, and Nate Frye, district child development specialist.

The families, co-workers and local patrons who took part in her rescue gathered at the Saw Tooth Restaurant to celebrate her recovery.

"Many thanks to local law enforcement, Odell firefighters, Hood River Towing, Mike Green, Joe Springs and Mike Emerson for their diligent efforts in helping both Merideth and the students during the accident," Dais said.

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