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Driver Honored For Saving Kids From Smoking Bus

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(credit: CBS) Bill Hudson
Bill Hudson has been with WCCO-TV since 1989. The native of Elk Rive...
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BROOKLYN PARK, Minn. (WCCO) — A quick thinking school bus driver was honored Tuesday for his actions after saving children last month from a bus that was on fire.

Last month, a First Student school bus started filling up with smoke. Alfred Lewis helped four students with special needs get off the bus safely. Two of the students were in wheelchairs.

Tuesday morning in Brooklyn Park, Lewis was recognized for his outstanding performance. When this very frightening incident happened on March 6, Lewis didn’t want the accolades or attention. But Tuesday, the soft spoken Lewis said he did what he was trained to do.

Police dash cam video shows the small bus up in smoke along a Brooklyn Park street. Lewis said he’d just picked up his fourth special needs child and noticed a smell of burning brake pads.

“I got that brake pad smell and then began looking around at the door and it started smoking,” Lewis said.

He and a nurse on board quickly escorted the kids out the back of the bus, unable to use the wheel chair ramp at the front as that’s where the fire was.

They lifted the two children in wheelchairs onto the pavement and took all four of the kids to safety. Lewis was honored for his quick thinking with two national safety awards at a ceremony in Brooklyn Center.

“We were lucky because they (wheelchairs) were small and not electric, so I could lift them right off the bus,” Lewis said. “I didn’t look back until after we got off the bus and then it was gone so we were blessed.”

Officers on the scene of the fire gave the kids teddy bears to help calm them and on Tuesday, First Student gave Lewis one too.

Lewis was recognized in a brief ceremony at the First Student headquarters in Brooklyn Park.

“I’m pleased to present the First Student Meritorious Safety Service Award,” First Student President, Dennis Maple, said.

Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Paul Davis added, “the efforts of Mr. Lewis definitely saved four lives here – this could have turned out very tragic.”

But the six-year veteran driver shuns the title of hero. Not one to seek the limelight, Lewis simply smiled and returned the credit to his company’s extensive safety training.

“All of us would do it every day. We’re all trained to do it and all these drivers are the same, they would all do the same,” Lewis said.

Authorities said they’re still investigating the fire as an electrical short of some kind. Lewis said he’s still driving his routes and will be helping the company this spring with the annual safety evacuation training for all drivers.

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