Steamboat school bus driver crashes, goes into cardiac arrest with students on board

Derek Maiolo
Steamboat Pilot
Steamboat Springs School District buses drive along Amethyst Drive. A driver for the district was flown to a hospital in Loveland on Monday after rear-ending a car, then going into cardiac arrest.
John F. Russell / Steamboat Pilot

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A bus driver from Steamboat Springs School District crashed into a car, then went into cardiac arrest while taking kids home Monday afternoon.

Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue firefighters received a call at 3:45 p.m. Monday about a motor vehicle crash at Pine and Third streets involving a man needing CPR.

The driver — whose route serves neighborhoods in West Acres, Soda Creek and Downhill Drive — rear-ended another vehicle before collapsing, according to Steamboat Deputy Fire Chief Chuck Cerasoli.

Neither law enforcement nor school officials would release the driver’s name until they had spoken with his family.

A bystander who saw the crash performed CPR until first responders arrived on scene. That bystander was Rob Harvey, a local construction worker who was on his way back from Steamboat Springs Middle School after signing up his daughter for the track team.

“I was behind the bus when it hit the car,” Harvey said.

He described how the bus continued to slowly roll forward after the accident, as if the driver had his foot off the break.

“I was confused what was going on,” Harvey said. “I worried that something might be wrong with him.”

Earlier in the day, Harvey had attended a memorial for Chris Hahn, a beloved father and longtime resident who died March 19 from an aortic aneurism while filming his son’s lacrosse game. That recent tragedy was on Harvey’s mind and helped spur him to action.

He immediately pulled over, put on his hazard lights and checked on the people whose car had been hit. Harvey said two girls, who appeared to be high school students, got out of the car and appeared OK. Next, he checked on the bus driver.

“I looked at him, and he seemed fine,” Harvey said.

The driver was lucid enough to get out of the bus and notify school district officials of the crash. Meanwhile, Harvey checked on the children inside the bus.

“The kids were kind of going crazy,” he said. “One kid was trying to get in the driver’s seat.”

Harvey attempted to calm them down, but the driver collapsed seconds later.

“He was lying in the gutter in the water,” said Harvey, who quickly pulled him out and to the side of the bus.

Harvey checked the driver’s vitals. The man wasn’t breathing and didn’t have a pulse. Harvey, who had taken a CPR course years ago, began to perform chest compressions. He tried to do mouth to mouth, but the driver’s throat filled with blood.

“I kept looking around to see if there was anyone more qualified than me, but no one was stopping,” Harvey said.

Within minutes, an officer from the Steamboat Springs Police Department arrived and took over CPR.

Harvey switched his attention to the young eyes peering from the bus.

“I just held my jacket up so the kids couldn’t see the guy anymore,” he said.

Cerasoli arrived soon after in a fire truck, followed by an ambulance. He helped paramedics conduct emergency defibrillation on the bus driver and transport him to the hospital.

On the way, first responders also utilized a new, automated CPR device. Though it is currently in the demo stages, Cerasoli said it has allowed emergency responders to spend less time personally performing CPR and provide more efficient care to patients.

“That device has been very helpful for us in recent cases,” he said.

The bus driver arrived to the hospital alive but in serious condition, according to Cerasoli. He was then flown to a facility in Loveland.

As of Tuesday, neither law enforcement nor school district officials knew his current condition.

Cerasoli added that Harvey’s quick aid was instrumental in keeping the driver alive.

“Having someone do CPR right away is one of the best life-saving tools,” he said.

School district officials notified parents about the incident Monday night. The email explained a bus had been involved in a crash and no students were injured.

It advised families, “If your child was on this bus and was affected by the incident, please reach out to your principal and your building counselor for assistance.”

Brad Meeks, the district’s superintendent, added that counselors were available to speak with upset students Tuesday morning. He applauded Harvey’s efforts as well as those of several high school students on the bus who calmed down the younger children.

“We had a lot of good Samaritans helping out,” Meeks said. “It’s amazing what people will do in extraordinary circumstances.”

To reach Derek Maiolo, call 970-871-4247, email or follow him on Twitter @derek_maiolo.

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