MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A New Prague bus driver’s quick thinking during a crash might have saved the life of a teenager whose car slammed into his bus.
“As I looked in the rear-view mirror, I saw this car coming. And I said, ‘God, it’s not slowing down,’” said, Larry Kotek, the bus driver.
For 23 years, Kotek has been the first person kids see when they get on the bus in the morning. He loves his job, and up until Monday afternoon he’d never had so much as fender-bender.
The crash happened as he was about to drop off a student; that’s when he saw a car coming up, fast.
“For some reason, I thought: ‘Well, if I take off, maybe she’ll slam on her brakes and slow down, and then we won’t have to collide,’” Kotek said.
He got up to 7 mph before the bus was rear-ended. The front end of the car was smashed to the driver’s seat. The students were fine, but the driver of the car wasn’t.
“When I looked in the rear-view mirror after the crash…[I saw] her arm hanging out of the window, and it was all blood,” Kotek said.
He then pulled 17-yeard-old Katie Morris from her car and got her off the road. Morris suffered cuts on her face.
“I have stitches on my eyebrow and on my eye,” Morris said.
But Morris never lost consciousness. She was airlifted to North Memorial Medical Center where she was treated for a concussion and cuts to her face.
Morris thanked Kotek, because the crash could have been much worse.
Authorities believe that when Kotek tried to take off, he minimized the impact – perhaps to such an extent that he saved Morris’ life.
“I’m so grateful for him,” Morris said. “They are talking about him maybe getting an award, and I definitely think he deserves it. He is definitely a great person.”
Kotek says his quick reaction was either the work of a higher power or that of instinct.
“It’s just something that happened,” he said. “I can’t explain that.”
Kotek said he would like to visit Morris to see how she’s doing. They did talk on the phone Tuesday night.
Morris was released from the hospital Tuesday afternoon, and she doesn’t remember what caused her to run into the bus.
Authorities confirmed that her cell phone was not a factor.
Kotek was driving a new school bus. His boss told him at the beginning of the year not to get so much as a scratch on it. He was four days away from the last day of school when the crash happened, but Craig Most (his boss) said Kotek is more than forgiven.
“It’s just a credit to him what he did,” Most said. “I’m not sure anyone would react that way. I really don’t know how he did it.”