Bus driver recognized for quick thinking after Akron plane crash

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SPRINGFIELD TOWNSHIP, Ohio-- School bus driver Sandy Jett was completing her route, driving students home from school on Nov. 10 when they encountered a scene not found in any bus driver training manual.

She had about eight students left on her bus when they turned onto Mogadore Road just as a twin-engine business jet crashed into an apartment building.

"What I seen was just a red ball of fire and there was blue flames on top, and I remember seeing a roof so I knew it was a house or a building," Jett said.

She said she does not remember seeing the actual plane crash, but was focused on something closer to the bus.

"I seen something falling and it was one from this side and this side and I was like what is that? And then one fell right in front of me about the time a guy come running out of an apartment building, and it arced and sparked when it hit the ground," she said

"It instantly went through my head, these are power lines falling. And it dawned on me they were falling in line and that's what scared me because I thought, 'How far back are they going to keep coming? What's making them fall?' And I instantly went into panic mode. It's about then the cloud that went up came down and we were all in smoke," Jett said.

Jett said she followed protocol and immediately reached for her radio to call for assistance, but she also knew it was not safe to stay there.

"I said, 'Somebody needs to go back and help me back up. We're out of here' and Monte (went to the back of the bus and was telling me, 'You can come back. You can come back,'" Jett said of one of the students.

After driving a school bus for three years, Jett's supervisor said it's clear she really cares about the kids.

"Sandy is a really unique individual because she really cares about her kids and cares about everything that she does here. And I was really proud of her when she did what she did," said transportation manager Lonnie Meeker.

"She could have been maybe three, four minutes earlier she would have been right there when that plane went down. I mean, for her to be pulling up there and stopping the bus and see lines going down, wires going down tells me that that plane just crashed," Meeker said.

Jett said most of the kids on the bus mirrored her own reaction, staying calm and wondering what was happening.

"There was one little girl, as soon as we seen it flash she goes, 'My dad is down there.' And she was panicking because he sits right there at Stull Avenue in that parking lot and that's where I drop her off. I said, 'It's alright. It's OK. I get you there every day, today's no different. We are going to get you there.' And I just kept telling her it's OK" Jett said.

She said she learned that it was a plane crash after she had driven the bus a safe distance away and called her dispatcher. The school district had already been in touch with most of the parents of the kids who were on board and made arrangements for them to be picked up at a local school.

"It didn't really hit me until I went home that evening, and I watched the news and I realized where exactly it was and where my bus was. And that's when it hit me how close it was. It's hard to explain. When I was at home I'd sit there and cry. When I'm out on my bus, my mind is on what I am doing," Jett said.

"She downplays what she did a lot," said the school district's business manager Dustin Boswell. "I don't think she realizes how her calm demeanor and just her training kicking in as she took over and kept the kids calm through that situation and allowed her to get them out of there safely."

Jett is expected to be recognized on Tuesday.

Continuing coverage of the Akron plane crash here