Amanda Severy was awarded a Maine State Police Special Award of Commendation for stepping in and saving a bus full of school children when the man she was training had a heart attack. The bus they were driving is behind her, in Litchfield. Andree Kehn/Sun Journal

WALES — At first, Amanda Severy didn’t realize anything was wrong.

Her trainee school bus driver had been dealing with a cough, but he said he’d figured out why he hadn’t been feeling well. And he seemed fine that morning, Nov. 7, 2018, when he climbed behind the wheel of the Regional School Unit 4 bus for his final training run. That afternoon, he’d be taking students home by himself.

They had roughly 20 children on the bus that morning, all middle- and high-school students, and Severy was talking to one of them when the driver signaled his turn onto School Road toward Oak Hill High School. But when the bus turned, it turned too early.

“I looked up and he was slumped forward,” Severy said Friday.

He’d had a heart attack and was unconscious at the wheel. The school bus was out of control.

Over the next minutes, Severy would get to the wheel, regain control and stop the bus from potentially running into a ditch.

“I would hope anybody else in that situation would have reacted the same way,” Severy said. “But I keep being told by everybody, including my family, that it is a big deal.”

Such a big deal, in fact, that the Maine State Police on Friday presented her with a Special Award of Commendation for saving the bus full of children.

“It was not anything that I expected to happen,” she said of the award. “I was perfectly fine with nobody finding out what happened. I am not one for the recognition stuff.”

Severy, 34, has been driving a bus for the Sabattus, Litchfield and Wales school system for 12 years. That morning, she and her trainee happened to take a different bus on their route. This one had a wider area around the driver’s seat.

That would end up being important.

As the driver sat slumped in his seat, Severy had to find a way to get behind the wheel. He was not a small man, she said. And she was seven months pregnant.

“I was able to position myself in such a way I was able to get to the steering wheel and start slowing the bus down until we got to a speed where I could pull my parking brake without causing too many issues,” she said.

Because the driver’s foot had slipped off the accelerator, she was also able to get her feet between his and hit the brakes.

If she hadn’t regained control, the bus likely would have either traveled into a nearby business parking lot or run into a ditch.

The children, she said, remained composed.

“They did really good,” Severy said. “Everybody was calm and was just kind of watching me and waiting. They all knew something was going on, but thankfully none of them overreacted.”

With the bus stopped, Severy called for help over the radio. The high school’s principal and assistant principal quickly appeared to help get kids off the bus and move the driver so he could get medical help. A bystander began CPR until an ambulance arrived.

The driver was taken to a hospital, but he died that night.

“I’m glad I was with him. If it had to happen, I’m glad I was with him,” Severy said. “He would have been devastated (if the students had been hurt).”

Few people knew about Severy’s actions on the bus that morning. The school board was told and some parents knew, but Severy was happy for it to stay quiet.

“Amanda is dedicated,” Superintendent Andrew Carlton said. “She loves kids and she is a fabulous bus driver who went above and beyond the call of duty to take care of those kids and be there for her colleague.”

Then a parent nominated her for the State Police award. And she won.

She received the award in a ceremony at the police academy in Vassalboro on Friday afternoon. She shared the spotlight with nearly two dozen others, including a Lyman trooper who was named State Trooper of the Year and Hillary Campbell, who accepted a commendation on behalf of her husband, Detective Ben Campbell, who was killed in April when he was struck by a tractor-trailer tire.

The ceremony, Severy said, was “very nice.”  She thanked the woman who nominated her, but Severy didn’t think she did anything special.

“I did what I had to do,” she said.


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