College Park

‘I Got My Babies Off That Bus': Hero School Bus Driver Speaks After Fire

Bus driver Reneita Smith ran back onto the burning bus to make sure every seat was clear, she said

It's hard to imagine a more troubling scene: a yellow school bus engulfed in flames.

That's what residents of 51st Street in College Park, Maryland, saw Monday afternoon.

But all 20 students of Glenarden Woods Elementary School in Prince George's County made it off the bus safely thanks to the driver. Reneita Smith jumped into action when she saw flames.

"I opened my door, took off my seat belt, and I got my babies off that bus," she said.

Neighbors hurried outside to help and were relieved to see so many children on the street.

Lucy Kilin said she saw flames surround the bus.

"This fire was going too fast. I had a little extinguisher," she said. "It was too late. I couldn't do anything."

Another neighbor ushered the children into her backyard while they waited for another bus.

Smith, the bus driver, double checked that every child was accounted for.

"I ran back onto the bus to make sure that every seat was clear," she said.

Members of the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company & Rescue Squad responded and put out the blaze.

No injuries were reported, Prince George's County Fire Department spokesman Mark Brady said. The cause of the fire was not clear immediately.

An illuminated brake light indicator was the first sign something was wrong, Smith said. Witnesses told News4 they saw flames come from the wheel area.

The county did not immediately respond to an inquiry about the fire.

The bus was a total loss, but every child is safe.

Smith, who has a 4-year-old child of her own, said she's protective of the students on her bus.

"As I'm driving that bus, they're my babies," she said. "I'm their mom until I drop them off to their biological moms."

She brushed off praise. 

"I have people calling me a hero, and I say that I'm just a mom," she said.

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