HEMET – Transportation Director Michael Fogerty recognized three bus drivers, Sysonna Allen, Christina Dever and Gabriel Figueroa, with Good Apple Awards at the Hemet Unified School District December 2016 governing board meeting for their quick thinking and calm actions to the bus fire incident on Dever’s bus.
Dever was transporting students the morning of Oct. 18 to Rancho Viejo Middle School on her morning route when the engine compartment of her bus caught on fire. Dever calmly pulled the bus to the side of the road and instructed her students to exit the bus.
As Allen turned off Florida Avenue onto Cawston Avenue that morning, she saw flames coming from underneath the Dever’s bus. Allen immediately began to contact Dever via the two-way radio. She activated all emergency lights while slowing down to park next to the Dever’s bus.
Once she had pulled in behind the bus, Allen immediately sprung into action assisting with the evacuation of students. During this emergency evacuation, Dever’s training was evident as she counted out loud as each student safely exited the bus and ensured all students were accounted for.
As Figueroa was transporting his students to the middle school as usual, he noticed that Dever’s bus was on fire and immediately pulled over to the side of the road to assist. Without hesitation, he began to gather Dever’s students who had been evacuated off the bus and were standing on the sidewalk. He instructed these students to get onto his bus, putting them in a safer area. Once the emergency personnel arrived, Figueroa transported these students to Rancho Viejo Middle School.
As soon as Dever knew that all students were safe, she went to the outside back of the bus to assist Allen with the fire extinguisher and further emergency procedures. During this fast escalating emergency, Allen calmly and professionally communicated with her students to remain on the bus while she attended to the bus emergency. Allen successfully utilized her experience and training to effectively ensure the safety of all the students during this emergency and was highly commended for her quick action and thinking.
Bus drivers starting out their morning route never expect, or rather know, what the events of the day will encompass. Dever, professionally and without hesitation, utilized her experience and training skills acquired to execute an emergency evacuation and ensure the safety of all her students. She was commended for an excellent job done.
The day was particularly somber; the processional for the fallen police officers in Palm Springs, one of whom was a Hemet native was being held. The city streets were lined with first responders in honor of the fallen officers.
It should be noted that this is not the first time Figueroa has been instrumental in an emergency situation. Figueroa was the bus driver involved in a 2015 accident while transporting the 25 students who role played as victims in the “Every 15 Minute” program presented by the Hemet Police Department, California Highway Patrol, Hemet Fire Department and other public agencies. In that morning incident, a car pulled out in front of him on state Route 74. Figueroa made the instant decision to strike the car in front of him instead of taking evasive action and putting eastbound motorists at risk. Figueroa was commended for his calm and professional actions on both occasions.