South Carolina

‘I’m just a mother who got 40 kids off to safety.’ SC bus driver talks about fire

Bernadine Reed had only driven a school bus for the Darlington County School District for 45 days when she saved 40 elementary school students from a blaze, district Superintendent Tim Newman said Wednesday.

Newman said after the early morning crash Tuesday, he now considers Reed a hero.

“As we saw from the pictures that were out there ... it was a very scary situation, but I’m so thankful for Ms. Reed and the actions she took,” Newman said.

Reed was stopped at a train crossing when a car ran into the back of school bus, she said.

“A little girl from the back of the bus said, ‘It’s smoking,’ ” Reed said.

Quickly opening the bus door, Reed ushered the 40 uninjured children off the bus and into a nearby field, where they stood in a circle and watched their school bus burn, Reed said.

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Bernadine Reed prepares to begin her afternoon route Jan. 23, 2019, a day after she saved 40 of her student bus riders after a collision. Reed returned to driving the same day with a new “replacement” bus. DARLINGTON COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT

“It wasn’t hard at all because they listened and did everything I told them,” Reed said.

Reed, a former special educator, said she was just doing the job she loved.

“I’m just a mother who got 40 kids off to safety. ... I went to my next ride that afternoon,” Reed said. “This is what I do. This is what I love.”

Newman said the district works to make sure all of its students are prepared for situations like this. The schools each have students go through bus evacuation drills twice a year, he said. The last one was done in October.

The school district said they heard the driver of the car that hit the bus was OK. He was cited for “driving too fast for the conditions,” according to the S.C. Highway Patrol.

“We’re thankful that the situation turned out the way it did,” Newman said.

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Fire fighters work on putting out a fire that consumed a school bus after a crash in South Carolina. Palmetto Rural Fire Department and Medical Transport
Emily Bohatch helps cover South Carolina’s government for The State. She also updates The State’s databases. Her accomplishments include winning a Green Eyeshade award in Disaster Reporting in 2018 for her teamwork reporting on Hurricane Irma. She has a degree in Journalism with a minor in Spanish from Ohio University’s E. W. Scripps School of Journalism.