Driver Called Hero After Transit Bus Catches Fire In Fort Smith

FORT SMITH, Ark. (KFSM) — A Fort Smith bus driver is being called a hero today.

Andy O'Brien made sure all of his passengers made it off safely after flames flooded a transit bus Thursday (April 11).

O'Brien said he's just thankful he and all of the passengers, who are regulars on his route, are alive. He has been a driver with the city for two and a half years.

"Well, ya know this is the route I’ve driven over a thousand times because we drive it 11 times a day," O'Brien said.

The accident involving the bus and another vehicle happened around 8 a.m. at the height of rush hour just outside Walgreens.

"I knew we were going to get hit. I tried to hit the gas pedal. He started braking, and we had an impact, and the front just caught fire," O'Brien said.

The impact O'Brien and the passengers felt was a 1993 Honda Accord driven by Deshon Smith, striking the side of the bus and causing the flames to ignite.

That's when O'Brien said his instincts kicked in and survival mode took over.

"Stop the bus and get everybody off, that’s the first thing that popped into my mind," O'Brien said.

"It’s like a habit, first thing I yelled is everybody off the bus now, and I did it real loud."

Police believe the bus caught fire when its compressed natural gas tank exploded after the crash.

Witnesses said the driver, O'Brien and passengers, Joni Stevens, Robert Stevens, Robert Cunnigham and Sharon Patterson were able to escape the burning bus through a window on the driver's side.

"I’m still thinking about what happened ya know, I’m not shook up," O'Brien said.

Some people are describing O'Brien as a hero. but he says he just did what any bus driver would do.

"I’m not a hero. It’s just part of the job. If this happened again, I’d do it again," O'Brien said. "A hero is a person that flies up the third story window. I don’t have a cape so no."

O'Brien said he is thrilled that no one was hurt, but did say he lost one thing in the fire.

"The sad part about it is, and what bothered me was I made an awesome lunch, and I didn’t grab it," O'Brien said through laughter.

O'Brien told 5NEWS he looks forward to going back to work sometime next week and will be happy to see all of his passengers.

Fort Smith City Transit Director Ken Savage said the bus was last inspected in April 2018 and was given a good condition as far as ratings go.

Right now, the investigation is still ongoing, and Fort Smith Police have not yet released who is at fault.

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