By TRICIA HILL
It was a normal afternoon for Bob Welsh as he was driving his Wauzeka-Steuben students home from school last Thursday. However, things went horribly wrong when Welch realized the radio had shut off unexpectedly while going down the steep and winding hill off County N.
“Mill Road is filled with steep and winding roads,” Welsh said.
Shortly after the radio shut off, Welsh noticed that all the lights of the bus had gone off and that the engine was no longer working. So Welsh was heading down a steep hill with no lights and no power. What to do? First, Welsh stood on the brake hoping to stop the bus. As it didn’t seem he was gaining much from the actual brakes, he decided to try out the emergency brake.
“That worked for a little while but eventually they faded out as well,” Welsh said. “It was almost like they were not even there.”
Once that happened, the bus started to pick up speed. About halfway down the hill was a sharp turn to the right and off to the left was about a 100-foot drop off. Welsh knew then that he needed to get the bus stopped, so he steered the bus off to the right and into a ditch that was covered by a wall of snow. Once the bus had come to a rest, three boys that lived close by walked to their house and phoned the bus garage for help, as they were out of cell phone service and the radio on the bus to call out was out of service as well.
“There were many things working in my favor that day,” Welsh said. “One, it was in the afternoon, where had it been morning and my lights had went out I probably wouldn’t have been able to see.”
Out of Welsh’s 46 years of service as a Wauzeka-Steuben school bus driver, this was a new experience for him to have almost no control over the bus. Welsh was fortunately able to make a quick decision and keep all seven students on the bus safe that afternoon.
“The two younger kids on the bus went home and told their grandma that they thought it was pretty cool,” Welsh said.
Welsh remembers asking one of the boys on the bus if he was cold and the boy responded “No, but I am bored.” Eventually another bus arrived and the students were delivered to their homes safely.
Later, Wauzeka-Steuben Principal Robert Sailor acknowledged Welsh for taking care of the students. Welsh jokingly said that he wished his radio had been working so he could have said, “Houston we have a problem.”