Imperial bus driver pulls boy, 7, from canal

March 31, 2001|By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer

IMPERIAL — An Imperial Unified School District bus driver may have saved the life of a second-grade boy Thursday when she pulled him from a drainage ditch.

Rhonda Jones, 47, had just dropped off her last passenger, a 7-year-old boy whose name was not available from district officials, near Gullett and Wienert roads on her afternoon route from Westside school.

Before she pulled away from that last stop, Jones heard a cry for help.

"I looked up and all I could see was feet," Jones recalled. "He was yelling, ‘Mrs. Jones! Help.' "

The second-grader was stretched across a full drainage ditch, his hands on one side and feet on the other.

The boy had slipped and fallen over the cement channel, Jones said, and became stranded. The water in the canal was soaking him from neck to waist.

Supporting himself with his hands and feet to keep his head and lower body out of the water, the boy called out to Jones for help.


Jones said she ran from her bus to pull the boy up and away from the ditch by his backpack.

"I didn't even think anything about it," Jones said.

A mother of four, Jones understands the trust parents put in bus drivers to safely transport their children.

"We have to be very careful," Jones said.

"Most of us think of them (the students) … just like our kids," she added.

Jones, who has been driving for the district for a year and a half, said she was just doing her job.

Frank Thomas, Jones' supervisor, wasn't surprised at her actions.

"Rhonda's very conscientious. She's a great driver here in the district," Thomas said.

All Imperial school district bus drivers are trained to look out for children's safety, even for those they don't transport, Thomas said.

Though the boy was shaken and wet, he was otherwise unhurt when his mother drove by the scene and took him home.

"I'm just glad I was there," Jones said.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.

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