Charleroi school bus driver to be honored as hero
Charleroi Area School District driver Eva Harris poses with some of the gifts she received from parents and students for safely removing children from a bus after it caught fire last week.
Charleroi Area School District bus driver Eva Harris was taking elementary school students home last Wednesday when the vehicle she was driving began to lose power while traveling uphill.
She pulled the bus into a church parking lot in West Pike Run Township about the same time she noticed smoke coming from the gearshift.
“I said, ‘There’s going to be a fire. Let’s get out,’” said Harris, who will be honored today by Charleroi Area School Board for her actions in getting 18 children safely out of the bus.
Harris said after the children were safe, she went back to the driver’s seat while smoke filled the bus and had just enough time to radio the bus garage and say, “Fire on Huber Road.”
“I couldn’t breathe by that time,” Harris said.
Things were “popping and fizzing” and flames began to shoot from under the bus, she said.
At that point, she ordered the children to run behind the church so they wouldn’t see the bus in flames.
Harris, who has been receiving cards, flowers and angel figurines from parents and children, is being called a hero for her actions, said Brad Ferko, superintendent of Charleroi schools.
Ferko said Harris not only got the children to safety, but she had the “common sense” to place them in an area where they wouldn’t have witnessed a bus possibly explode, something that might have left them with long-term memories.
“Some of those children might not have wanted to get back on a bus,” Ferko said.
Within minutes after the fire call was received, firefighters from Bentleyville and Fallowfield arrived to extinguish the blaze, which consumed the entire engine area of the bus, Harris said.
“I am so grateful we are all alive and safe,” she said.