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Published: Wednesday, 3/24/2004

Stricken bus driver gets help from kids

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Trevor Eckert, left, Doug Cassavar, and Jessica Cassavar gave an assist to their ill bus driver. Trevor Eckert, left, Doug Cassavar, and Jessica Cassavar gave an assist to their ill bus driver.
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BOWLING GREEN - Fifth-grader Doug Cassavar was in his usual spot near the back of the school bus when he heard the driver mumbling something about stopping the bus.

"Our bus driver kept murmuring 'I have to stop the bus,' so I said, 'Somebody stop the bus' because I was too scared to move," the 11 year-old recalled yesterday.

What had started out as a "regular, long bus ride home" from St. Aloysius School in Bowling Green to their homes near Weston suddenly turned into an emergency medical situation that put Doug, his sister, Jessica, and the two other children on the bus to the test.

They passed with flying colors.

Jessica, 13, pulled the emergency brake to bring the slow-moving bus to a stop, while Trevor Eckert, 12, used his cell phone to try to call for help.

"I was very proud of my children," said Tina Cassavar, mother of Jessica and Doug. "But I was very concerned for the bus driver. I know the bus driver, and I know how conscientious she is."

The driver, who works for Otsego Local Schools, has not been back to work since the incident March 15, said Superintendent Joe Long, who would not identify her. Privacy laws even prevent him from disclosing details of the medical emergency.

Jessica said her family was going to visit her last night.

"She called us and talked to the children last night, " Mrs. Cassavar said. "She assured them it was OK for them to ride the bus, that they did the right thing, and that she was trying to get better."

Jessica, a sixth-grader, said a bus driver she had last year showed the kids how to pull the emergency brake in case something ever happened. She never dreamed she'd actually have to do it, though.

"I can barely ride a bike let alone drive a bus," she said.

Trevor concurred.

"I was never prepared for that ever to happen," he said. "I always thought, that's never going to happen and then it

happened."

He said he quickly pulled out his cell phone and dialed 911 when the kids realized their driver was having problems.

The phone was answered by someone at the Lucas County sheriff's office, Trevor said, but after the call taker got the information from him, he said he was told they couldn't help because the bus was in Wood County.

Dennis Cole, director of emergency services for Lucas County, said he has searched records and tapes from that day but has found no evidence of the cell phone call.

Trevor then used the radio in the bus to call for help.

Trevor said even though everything turned out safely, he has not ridden the bus since. Doug and Jessica came home on the bus for the first time Monday.

While the kids aren't sure what caused them to react as they did, Doug, who wears hearing aids in both ears, said he knows.

"It was God," he said without a moment's hesitation. "I probably wouldn't have been able to hear the bus driver if it wasn't God because I'm hearing impaired."

School principal Mary K. Williams said that on Monday the students were asked to recount their story at a school assembly that focused on respect and responsibility toward other people.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at:

jfeehan@theblade.com

or 419-353-5972.



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