RIVERHEAD, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — An inferno involving a school bus erupted on the Long Island Expressway Friday, and remarkably, everyone got out alive.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reported, an NYPD transit officer saved the driver of the mini-school bus and an aide.
Officer Christopher Canale was a humble hero after putting his police training to work while he was off duty and on vacation.
“I did nothing more than anybody else would do in this situation,” Canale said.
Around 1:30 p.m. Thursday, Canale was off-duty and driving west on the LIE near exit 70 when he noticed smoke billowing from, and flames engulfing, a bus that had apparently rear-ended a semi-trailer truck.
“I heard someone screaming on the front of the bus,” Canale said. “First thing I’m thinking is that there’s children inside the bus. It’s my biggest fear. I have two kids of my own, and it was a big concern”
That was when Canale sprang into action. He pulled over his car and pried open the door to the bus where he found the driver pinned inside.
The bus driver was screaming for help — unable to move. The steering wheel was presed against his chest.
“The bus… it was pushed in, so the flames that were in the engine were real close to his feet, and the smoke was just billowing in, and it was very tough to breathe,” Canale said.
Canale yelled for anyone else on board. There was one other person – a bus monitor shrouded in smoke.
Through the heavy smoke, Canale called out to the aide and told her to start walking toward the sound of his voice, police said. He met her halfway down the aisle and pulled her off the bus.
Canale then pulled the driver out before an inferno erupted, 1010 WINS’ Mona Rivera reported.
“I told the driver to hold on to my arm, and I was able to kind of pull him or wedge him between the steering wheel and the seat, and pulled him to safety,” Canale said.
In Riverhead, there was appreciation Friday. There were no children on the bus, which was en route to pick up students.
“The actions of the off-duty police officer who rescued our employees yesterday at great personal risk to himself are selfless and heroic,” Riverhead School Supt. Nancy Carney said in a statement. “I cannot thank him enough.”
The district said it will invite Officer Canale to the school to thank him personally. Meanwhile, the driver and the bus monitor were resting at their homes Friday, as thanks to Canale’s bravery, they suffered only minor injuries.
Police said Canale is an 8-year veteran assigned to Transit District 23. He also has two brothers who are police officers – one of him his twin.