SHAWNEE, Kan. — A bus driver is credited with keeping students from Piper High School safe as an EF-3 tornado ripped through Andover, Kansas, last month.
DS Bus Lines and Piper School District said driver Roger Smith was driving 30 students from Piper to a choir competition near Wichita when they found themselves in the middle of severe weather.
The bus company said choir director Shelly Cole contacted colleagues who were already at a Wichita hotel. She learned they had already been moved to severe weather shelters because tornados were in the area.
The weather continued to deteriorate and the wind was so strong that some students on the bus experienced motion sickness.
“I have been the Choir Director at Piper for 22 years, and have been teaching for 27 years. This is hands down the scariest thing I have experienced,” Cole said according to a release provided by DS Bus Lines.
The group tried to find a roadside shelter on the turnpike near El Dorado, but couldn’t.
DS Bus Lines said Smith remained focused on the highway as tornado sirens began sounding on student’s cell phones. Some students used weather radar apps and navigation to provide turn-by-turn directions as Smith drove the bus to a nearby Walmart.
By that point the storms had already caused damage in the area and much of the power was out in the area.
When the bus arrived at the El Dorado Walmart, Smith and Cole made sure all the students were safely inside before parking the bus, according to the bus company.
No one in the group was injured and after getting the all-clear, they made it to the choir competition.
“I’d like to say thank you to Thomas for designing and manufacturing such a strong machine. That bus really took a beating that day, but it held up well,” Smith said.
At the May 9th school board meeting, the district honored Smith, Cole and the three students who helped guide the bus to safety.
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