Amazing Grace Rides On TheBus
Wednesday - April 06, 2011
I’m taking a step away from the ocean this week to share the story of a spontaneous act of heroism and amazing grace.
In 26 years of reporting, I’ve responded to many automobile crashes and witnessed horrible tragedies. There’s always an uneasy feeling as you approach a crash scene. What are the circumstances? Who’s involved? Did someone die?
On March 16, those same questions raced through my mind as photographer Greg Lau and I rushed to the scene of a bus accident on Pali Highway. Information was limited. A town-bound city bus was heavily damaged by a falling tree and people were injured. What caught our attention was where the town-bound bus had come to a stop: in the Kailua-bound lanes.
We didn’t speak. We knew this one had the potential to be ugly.
When we turned the corner near the Pali tunnels we were stunned by what we saw: a mangled bus facing oncoming traffic. Its windshield was blown out. Twisted metal was scattered everywhere. An ambulance had just arrived and firefighters were rendering aid to a passenger at the rear of the bus. Debris and shattered glass were blocking the entrance so emergency crews carefully sent the victim through a window. Three more ambulances were weaving through traffic. It was intense.
Rider Gina Tevrdy was holding a bloodied white towel. I asked if she was OK and she nervously nodded yes and said the blood was from the bus driver’s face. She didn’t realize the towel was still in her shaking hands.
Just then, paramedics wheeled 62-year-old John Pedro by us. Pedro was behind the wheel when the 70-foot ironwood tree snapped at its base and slammed into a car and then his bus. The blow knocked him unconscious.
Passenger Brian Ward recalls the sound of a tremendous explosion. He says Pedro was out cold when the bus veered left, crossed the median and was heading for oncoming traffic.
“I just immediately got up and started taking the debris off the driver and I kept repeating to him you got to stop the bus, bro, you got to stop the bus,” says Ward.
“I remember the guy saying, ‘Stop the bus, stop the bus,’ I remember those phrases,” Pedro said from his living room in Kailua several days after the accident. He emotionally recalls how he fought to regain consciousness. “The thought that was going through my mind at that time was it’s going to get ugly, it’s going to get ugly.”
Ward says the bus was starting to slow but was still heading for oncoming traffic.
“I just kind of helped guide the bus over to the side of the road where she rolled to a stop, and then I got out and started directing traffic,” Ward says humbly. “When I saw another bus come, I jumped on it and got out of there! I thought I was going to get in trouble for what I did, touching the bus.”
Far from it - he helped save lives.
“He had to have grabbed the wheel,” says Pedro, who suffered a fractured nose and hand, whiplash and a concussion. “I don’t think me gradually going over there unless somebody steered it. I know he stepped up, and I’m deeply grateful for him stepping up - and a vet, that sounds like a vet.”
Pedro is also a veteran, and after 35 years as a city bus driver, was nine days away from retirement when the accident occurred.
“I thank the Lord, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior. He had his hand over the whole situation. He gets the glory for the guy who stepped up to the plate, Mr. Ward, and everyone else who came to the aid of the passengers and to me,” Pedro said with tears in his eyes.
By definition the word grace means to exercise love, kindness, mercy, favor; disposition to benefit or serve another. On March 16, Brian Ward did all of the above and more. Ward is homeless and wants everyone to remember, homeless people are good people too.
“We’re not all bad,” he says with a smile. “The main thing is everybody survived. It could have went way south.”
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