5 School Bus Driver Heroes Who Saved Children's Lives

05/12/2011 10:39 pm ET | Updated Jul 12, 2011

Being a school bus driver can be a heroic effort in and of itself; maneuvering a giant vehicle while attempting to keep children quiet and in their seats is quite a feat. But lately, a few bus drivers have gone above and beyond the call of duty -- from saving children from a burning bus to talking down a potential hijacker.

A look at some of the bus drivers who have recently performed duties far beyond their job descriptions:

Leading children off burning buses
North Carolina school bus driver Penny Cooper got 39 elementary schools students safely off a bus after it caught fire Wednesday morning, reports The Washington Post. When students noticed smoke coming from the back of the vehicle, Cooper pulled over and evacuated everyone through the front; she then re-entered the bus to make sure all the students were off. No one was injured in the fire, but the flames were so hot they melted the windows and tires.

In bizarrely similar news, just a few weeks earlier, another North Carolina bus driver, Brenda Morgan, got 12 students off of a burning bus before it exploded.

She noticed smoke and the smell of burning rubber; after pulling over on the highway to check the brakes, she drove the bus to a safer location and evacuated the students. By the time the fire department arrived, the bus was fully engulfed in flames.

"In a moment like that you don't panic, you do what's best for the students and yourself," Morgan told The Robesonian.

With this onslaught of burning school buses, it's lucky North Carolina has so many quick-thinking drivers.

Getting a potential hijacker to relinquish his weapon
On Monday, North Carolina bus driver Evans Okoduwa talked down a gun-wielding seventh grader who tried to hijack the school bus to Washington so he could shoot government officials, witnesses told WSOC-TV.

Okoduwa was driving the bus when the student approached him with a gun. But after talking to the student, Okoduwa was able to get him to hand it over.

"I asked him what was going on and if everything was OK," Okoduwa told ABC News. "He wasn't crying, but there was definitely a look that convinced me he wasn't playing either."

The suspect and seven other students on the bus were unharmed.

Saving choking students
California school bus driver Danny Waldrum saved the life of a choking 13-year-old special needs student earlier this month. Waldrum, a retired law enforcement officer, was driving his bus to school one morning when he noticed that his only rider was choking, reports CBS Sacramento.

He pulled over and called 9-1-1, checked to see if the boy was breathing and then administered an abdominal thrust that dislodged a small pebble from the boy's throat. Rescuers arrived shortly thereafter and credited Waldrum with saving the teen's life.

In March, Michigan school bus driver Michelle Babcock heard a commotion and looked in her mirror to see a first-grader red-faced and gasping for breath. She pulled over and successfully performed the Heimlich maneuver on the choking 6-year-old, causing a small jawbreaker to pop out of his mouth.

She was honored by the Board of Education for heroism.