Students Hailed As 'Big-Time Heroes' for Actions After Bus Driver Passes Out on Route

Two students are being hailed as "big-time heroes" for their actions after a school bus driver passed out while driving on a rural roadway outside of St. James, Missouri.

The school bus had been on its usual route when it suddenly lurched off the road, tearing through a fence and into a field, the Associated Press reported. Seventh-grader Tandon Baker realized the driver had passed out and immediately took action.

Tandon, 12, ran to the front of the bus to put his foot on the brake and shifted the gear into park. Emilee Williams, a 15-year-old high school sophomore, called 911 from her cellphone before comforting the scared but uninjured younger children.

St. James School District Superintendent Tim Webster praised the students' actions, calling them heroes for responding so quickly and calmly.

"A really bad situation, but some really big-time heroes that came out of it," Webster said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Students Stop Runaway School Bus
Two students are being praised as "big-time heroes" for their actions after a school bus driver passed out, sending the bus off the road. Seventh-grader Tandon Baker put his foot on the brake and shifted the gear into park while high school sophomore Emilee Williams called 911 and comforted younger children. Getty Images

Tandon and Emilee were honored Friday night before the high school football game when Missouri State Highway Patrol Col. Eric Olson presented proclamations from Gov. Mike Parson.

"I don't know that I've ever been so proud of two kids," Webster said. "Just to be able to act that quickly and selflessly. It takes incredible courage for kids to act like that so young."

St. James is a town of about 4,200 residents in central Missouri. Students from grade school through high school were returning home after the second day of classes in the new academic year when the bus driver suddenly lost consciousness.

The bus rolled through at least one barbed-wire fence.

"There was quite a bit of open space ahead of the bus, so it definitely would have kept going," Webster said. "A wooded area was about 100 yards away."

Tandon, whom Webster described as a "real quiet kid," jumped up from his seat.

"Tandon was able to run to the front of the bus and apply the brake and get the bus to come to a controlled stop," Highway Patrol Sgt. Mike Mitchell said.

Most of the 25 students still on the bus were in elementary school. Though they were unhurt, many were terrified, and Emilee attended to them after calling 911, Mitchell said.

"There were a lot of panicked little kids and she kind of looked around the bus and was making sure everybody was calm," Webster said.

The bus driver, who had been with the district for several years, was airlifted from the scene and died days later. Her name and cause of death have not been released.

Tandon Baker and Emilee Williams
A school bus driver passed out while driving on Aug. 25, 2021, and seventh-grader Tandon Baker rushed to the front of the bus and applied the brake while high school sophomore Emilee Williams called 911 and comforted the young children on the bus. In this photo made Friday, Aug. 27, 2021, and provided by the provided by Chris James of the St. James Press, Emilee, left, and Tandon are honored before a football game by Missouri State Highway Patrol Col. Eric Olson for their heroic actions after the bus driver lost consciousness. Chris James/St. James Press via AP