MAPLE GROVE, Minn. (WCCO) — A veteran school bus driver is being credited with some quick thinking that may have saved the lives of his passengers.

Alfred Lewis, 59, was transporting four special needs students to Elm Creek Elementary in Maple Grove around 8:20 a.m. Thursday morning.

Suddenly, Lewis smelled smoke and noticed it coming out of the heater. That’s when he knew he had only one choice – to pull off the road.

“He pulled the bus over and immediately realized that he didn’t like the smell of smoke. He got all the kids and everybody off the bus. By the time he got back, flames were coming out of the heater area up front,” Brooklyn Park Police Inspector Mark Bruley said.

Lewis knew he had to act quickly because two of the four students onboard were in wheelchairs. Police dash cam video from a Brooklyn Park police squad reveals just how rapidly the fire and smoke spreads. It also shows the students being led to safety.

“He did all the right things. And that is take it seriously when you smell smoke, pull over and get everyone off the vehicle. That’s exactly what he did,” Bruley said.

The bus is owned and operated by First Student, a transportation company based in Cincinnati, Ohio. A company representative said all drivers are trained for such emergencies.

Alfred Lewis has been with First Student for six years and they called him “highly regarded and a very good driver.”

After his quick thinking heroics on a Thursday morning, four students and their parents will attest to that,

“Had he thought, I can make it back to the shop and take my time, it could have been a very different story,” Bruley said.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but there’s good evidence, based on what Lewis observed, that it indeed may have been a faulty heater.

Bill Hudson

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