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Video: School bus hero, 13: ‘I just raced to action’

  1. Closed captioning of: School bus hero, 13: ‘I just raced to action’

    >> good morning.

    >> what was going through your mind as you were racing to the front of that bus?

    >> i really wasn't thinking of anything. i was just seeing the bus driver and him doing weird stuff. he was convulsing, having a heart attack. i had never seen that before. i just raised into action. i just grabbed the wheel and stopped the bus.

    >> you knew -- you could tell that it was maybe heading towards a church?

    >> yeah, yeah. he was going on a church. the church at the end of the curb. i'm a christian. i don't want it to hit a church.

    >> when did you first know the bus was in trouble? what was the first sign to you?

    >> well, the bus driver wasn't paying attention to the road. his hands went off the steering wheel and jeremy went up and tried to steer.

    >> what made you decide to go up and give him a hand?

    >> i knew i had to do something because he didn't know cpr , and i was cpr certified.

    >> just the summer before, is that right?

    >> yes. just the summer before.

    >> and jamie, watching your son perform cpr on the driver has got to be something. i mean, he's trying to save the driver's life.

    >> it was very emotional for me when i saw the video. it brought tears to my eyes. it just makes me so proud that he jumped into action and really tried to help this person. it was very emotional to me.

    >> katherine , have your kids be called heroes has to be called special.

    >> we're really, really proud of them. we've had so much support from the family and the school and our church. i've always been proud of jeremy . exceptionally so after this.

    >> you know, we just heard the school administrator talk about how all the kids are taught how to stop, pull the brake and stop the bus. but my understanding is that jeremy actually had some experience driving. and that maybe at 13, you might have some explaining to do to your husband. is that right?

    >> he did ask after this all broke out, katherine , what are you really doing?

    >> what were you really doing?

    >> my husband goes on business trips, and jeremy will back the car out and wash it for me. he's had some experience behind a tractor with his papa years ago.

    >> so in the driveway.

    >> yeah. yeah.

    >> so are you guys the most popular kids in the entire district? i mean, what are your classmates saying now?

    >> they're just cheering. like the first day we came back to school after the accident, everyone was cheering. they were shouting, like, go, jeremy ! good job! a lot of attention.

    >> how are you handling all of this adulation?

    >> i just smile, just say thank you. like try not to take too much credit.

    >> i'm wondering, you know, now with your mom sitting here, however, i'm aware of that, do you think that you're going to be able to -- she's going to allow you to get your driver's license when you're legal at 16?

    >> i hope. i hope.

    >> his sister did not get her driver's license until she was 17. so we'll have to see how that will play out.

    >> i hope she'll give me some slack.

    >> jeremy and katherine wuitschick and also johnny and jamie wood and congratulations to you moms for the great job raising these boys. you boys are

By
TODAY contributor
updated 4/12/2012 1:09:30 PM ET 2012-04-12T17:09:30

In most ways, classmates Jeremy Wuitschick and Johnny Wood are typical middle school students. But both have special skills untypical for 13-year-olds: Jeremy knows how to drive from practicing in the family driveway, while Johnny became CPR-certified after taking a course with his mother last summer.

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But Jeremy and Johnny couldn't have imagined those skills would prove vital in preventing a calamity on Monday when their school bus driver suffered a heart attack.

Surveillance video dramatically captured the young teens jumping into action as their driver faltered en route to Surprise Lake Middle School in Milton, Wash. Jeremy grabbed the wheel in time to keep the bus from slamming into a church, and Johnny performed CPR on the stricken driver.

Sadly, the driver died on Wednesday, according to a report in the Seattle Times. Still, the teens have been hailed as heroes for their quick responses and calm efforts. They appeared on TODAY Thursday along with their proud moms to recount how their routine Monday morning suddenly turned into a frantic ordeal that made them summon all their skills and courage.

‘I just raced to action’
Jeremy told Ann Curry and Carl Quintanilla he was seated along with Johnny and 12 other classmates when he saw their substitute bus driver "doing weird stuff; he was convulsing, having a heart attack. I had never seen that before. I just raced to action."

Story: Woman saves truck driver in fiery crash

That he did, leaping from his seat and grabbing the wheel. As the bus crossed a double-yellow line into oncoming traffic and clipped a curb, Jeremy managed to steer it out of harm's way, hit the parking brake, and pull the keys out of the ignition, all the while seeing a church looming closer and closer.

"(The bus) was going on the curb... the church was at the end of the curb," he said, then added with a smile: "I'm a Christian, so I don't want it to hit the church."

Video: School bus hero, 13: ‘I just raced to action’ (on this page)

Incredibly, Jeremy also thought of the driver at the same time, attempting CPR even before the bus had rolled to a stop. Meanwhile, Johnny was observing the crisis.

Johnny told Curry and Quintanilla the bus driver's hands "weren't on the steering wheel, and Jeremy was standing up trying to steer. I knew I had to do something, because he didn't know CPR and I was CPR certified." So Johnny left his seat to administer CPR while Jeremy brought the bus to safety.

‘It brings tears to my eyes’
The young heroes’ actions quickly became the talk of the town. Johnny's mother, Jaynie Wood, was overwhelmed when she saw what her son and his friend had done.

"It was very emotional for me when I saw the video; it brings tears to my eyes," she told Curry and Quintanilla. "(It) just makes me feel so proud that he jumped into action and really tried to help this person."

Story: Boy’s composure during 911 call saves sitter

But in true American tradition, Jeremy did his best to maintain an aw-shucks attitude toward even as he and Johnny became the talk of the school. "The first day we came back to the school after the accident, everyone was cheering, they were shouting, "Oh, Jeremy, good job!' " he related. "I just smile and say thank you. I try not to take too much credit."

But Jeremy's mom, Catherine Wuitschick, told Curry and Quintanilla with an embarrassed laugh that she had some explaining to do to her husband about just how Jeremy already knew how to drive.

Video: How young heroes kept bus from crashing (on this page)

"He did ask after all this broke out: 'Catherine, what are you really doing?' " she said. "My husband goes on business trips and Jeremy will back the car out and wash it for me."

Catherine noted that Jeremy's older sister wasn't allowed to get her driver's license until she was 17, but Jeremy's actions may hasten his entry into the world of legal drivers. Jeremy looked at his mom on TODAY and deadpanned, "I hope she gives me some slack."

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Unfortunately, the bus driver, Ryan Callis, died in the hospital on Wednesday, according to a report from his family published in the Seattle Times on Thursday. They did not state the cause of death.

Nonetheless, school officials are amazed the two boys kept their heads about them in the crisis. So did the bus's other young passengers, who were quick in calling 911.

"They did remarkably, they were calm — the kids, they did an awesome job," said Daman Jenkins of the school's transportation department.

The school's principal Jim Snider added, "(I said), 'Jeremy and Johnny, you guys want something from the snack bar, it's on me.' "

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