LONG BRANCH, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — Two girls suffered through terrifying moments recently, as a strange man grabbed them on their way home from school.
But a school bus driver and aide luckily heard the girls’ screams and jumped in to help.
CBS2’s Meg Baker spoke exclusively to one of the victims Wednesday. The Long Branch High School student, who was scared to show her face after being attacked, was calling the driver and bus attendant her guardian angels.
“He saved my life,” said the 17-year-old girl.
Seman-Tov school bus driver Jose Ramirez and aide Nate Woolbright were on their afternoon route last Wednesday around 3 p.m. in Long Branch when they drove past a young girl in need of help – screaming as a man held onto her.
“He tried to steal my phone, and he grabbed me, and he tried to squeeze me tight,” the girl said.
“We couldn’t stop dead, so we made a U-turn, came back around – by that time, he was gone,” Ramirez said. “So we saw the young lady running, so we pulled over and asked if she was OK. She said, ‘No, I’ve just been attacked.’”
The girl hopped on the bus for safety. The bus crew immediately called 911 and followed the man onto Prospect Street.
“All of a sudden, we looked in the corner, we see him come out front yard again, and he grabbed another young girl, and this time, he picked her up, and she was screaming: ‘Help! Help! Help!’” Ramirez said.
It was a second attack.
“He let her go, and was petrified,” Ramirez said. “She ran inside the bus. And by that time, the police officers — Long Branch police officers – responded very quickly.”
Long Branch police arrested Daniel Omar Mejia-Reyes on accusations of attacking three girls – the youngest just 12 years old – on their way home from school.
The 27-year-old suspect was being held at the Monmouth County Jail with no bail on an immigration detainer as of Wednesday.
“Instead of driving past, we stopped and did something,” said Woolbright.
“Good feeling that we caught this guy, because if we hadn’t stopped there, who knows what he would have done?” Ramirez said.
“I thanked him a lot, because only one saw me screaming in street,” the student added.
The two men said they jumped into action so quickly because instinct set in. They are both fathers and could not imagine such a thing happening to their own daughters.
In the third attack, which the driver and aide did not witness, police said a classmate helped free another young girl from the grips of the suspect.