Metro school bus driver describes frightening moments, frantic rescue as flames & smoke consumed bus

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A metro school bus driver whose quick actions saved dozens of students last week talked to FOX 4 on Monday afternoon. Many have called D'Anthony Gildon a hero for what he did only moments before the bus was engulfed in flames.

The school bus fire happened Thursday afternoon in the area of Cypress and Grandview. Stunning, heart-pounding cell phone video was shared last Thursday and sent lots of parents running to the scene in the South Kansas City neighborhood.

"I just immediately knew something was wrong. I've never been in a situation like that, and I had so many kids that were counting on me," Gildon told FOX 4's Robert Townsend during an exclusive interview.

Gildon said the life-saving mission rapidly developed.

"Like 10 seconds, I was like 'oh my God this is really is really happening,'" the driver recalled.

His Apple School Bus, with 30 Warford Elementary School students on board, suddenly became a huge ball of fire.

"For five, 10 seconds, I really liked panicked because I'd never been in a situation like that. I radioed the base told them that I see smoke," he said.

Thick black smoke all around the engine and entire front part of his school bus quickly seeped inside where 30 frightened boys and girls kept screaming.

"They were frantic! When I told them we got to evacuate because of the fire, everybody kind of ran towards the middle," Gildon said.

That's when a quick-thinking Gildon says he yelled to a smart sixth grader to open an emergency back door on the bus to allow kids to escape.

"The bus is smoking from the back and engulfed in flames in the front," Gildon said.

The scary ordeal wasn't over until Gildon says he safely pushed the remaining students off the bus.

"Walking from the front to the back, I was looking at each seat, under each seat, grabbing backpacks," he said.

The school bus driver, on the job for just three years, is now being hailed a "hero."

"Man, I'm just glad I got everyone out. I'm a normal guy," he said.

Gildon says two days before the big fire, he underwent school bus safety training at work, which he says definitely paid off Thursday.