Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Injured school bus driver saves students

Photo / File / Duncan Brown
Photo / File / Duncan Brown

A group of children say they are grateful to their elderly school bus driver who managed to pull over safely even though he was bleeding from the stomach after a metal pole flew through the windscreen.

Sam Fyfe, who is in his 70s, was expected to undergo surgery in Auckland Hospital today after the incident on a busy road in Whangarei after school on Monday.

Mr Fyfe was hit with a 2kg piece of scaffolding which fell from a truck on Onerahi Rd and flew through the windscreen of the full school bus.

Despite being seriously injured, Mr Fyfe pulled the bus over to the side of the road and stopped without any of his 38 passengers or other road users being hurt.

Whangarei Girls' High School student Caitlyn Burrell, 12, was sitting directly behind Mr Fyfe on the NorthBus-operated school bus.

"I didn't see much but this truck was passing us and it looked like [the driver] was holding a pole out the window," she said.

The window separating her from the driver smashed and she banged her head as she ducked to avoid glass spraying into her face.

"I guess it just came through the windscreen and hit the bus driver. I thought we would roll down a bank but he pulled over to the side."

She said the impact to the driver had been "like a punch to the stomach with a 2kg pole" and she was amazed he had managed to stop safely.

"I asked him if it was hard for him to breathe and he said 'yes'."

Caitlyn placed a shirt over Mr Fyfe's bleeding stomach and called an ambulance.

Another student had a panic attack and couldn't move or speak.

Puke Hau, 13, rushed outside to wave down passing vehicles to help with the chaotic situation.

"Heaps of people were screaming," she said.

Another bus stopped and the driver came to their aid while another girl, 14-year-old Sam Calver, also did her bit to help.

"It was scary. Me and my friends were closer to the back and we were just talking and then we heard a smash," Sam said.

" Glass went flying all around the front area and we didn't exactly know what happened at first. Caitlyn was on the phone talking to the ambulance and she was kind of freaking out a little bit so I took the phone off her and started talking to the ambulance."

The police officers in charge of the case could not be reached for comment today but Shane McMahon, chief executive of NZBus which owns NorthBus, said the driver of the truck had not stopped and was yet to be located.

It was not known whether they were aware of the incident.

Mr McMahon said he could not speak highly enough of the driver he described as "a humble hero".

"He's done a fantastic job bringing the bus to a halt. You don't want to think about what might have happened if it hadn't been for this fellow's presence of mind," Mr McMahon said.

When he visited Mr Fyfe in hospital yesterday, his first concern was "whether the kids on the bus were all okay," Mr McMahon said.

He asked his boss to pass on his thanks to the Whangarei Boys' High and Girls' High School passengers who took care of him before other help and then a St John ambulance arrived.

The driver's actions had prevented a terrible accident, Mr McMahon said.

"These guys are experienced and there's no substitute for that. They also develop a bond with those students they see every day, and the way those kids reacted in this case reflects that."

The company had sent its own thanks through the schools, praising the students' actions.

- Additional reporting Northern Advocate

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