Last week, the Camas School District surprised two bus drivers with awards for keeping students safe in two reckless driving incidents that nearly became fatal.
Ileen Neibert and Judit Prihoda were told to attend last week’s school board meeting to honor a longtime colleague. When they showed up, Neibert and Prihoda were surprised to learn they were the real guests of honor, and Superintendent Mike Nerland had prepared awards to recognize their heroics.
A normal afternoon trip home this April quickly turned critical for Neibert after she made a stop at Northeast 28th Street and 242nd Avenue to let out a young girl. It’s a stop she makes all the time with a bus full of elementary school children, and the girl Neibert drops off there always runs out the doors to greet her grandparents outside.
This time, as the doors opened and the girl rushed to get off the bus, Neibert quickly noticed something wasn’t right, and her protective instincts kicked in.
“From four cars behind me, this car decided to pull out into a driveway on my door side, and he put his foot on the accelerator and zoomed through,” she said. “And I happened to hold back this student from getting off the bus.”
The girl’s grandfather ran after the car yelling at the driver, and Neibert took down the license plate number and reported it to the Camas Police Department. At the time, it hardly dawned on her that she’d just saved a child from what could have been a deadly accident.
“They just zoomed away and drove off,” Neibert said. “I don’t feel like I did anything out of the ordinary. It’s just my job.”
Prihoda has a similar feeling about her situation.
On a rainy day in April 2013, Prihoda headed out to take a couple of special-needs students home. She was driving near the Fern Prairie Market when she watched a black sports car in oncoming traffic lose control after careening around a turn.
“Somehow, he got back on the road but hit me head on,” she said.
The crash sent Prihoda’s bus sliding off the road, where it didn’t come to a rest until hitting a tree. The impact left the two students onboard with cuts and bruises.
“There was smoke, so I thought the bus was on fire,” she remembers. “I didn’t realize at the time that it was from the airbag.”
Prihoda yelled for her students to get out of the bus. One did, but the other needed her help to be unstrapped — he was wearing a safety harness.
“I just remember kind of hovering over those two and making sure they were OK,” she said. “Me and another 80 drivers would do the same thing. I don’t feel I did anything special.”