Jesse Thomas, 14, a student at Morinville Community High School in Alberta, speaks to the media Thursday while school principal, Vic Pedersen, looks on. (Janice Johnston/CBC)

A 14-year-old student at Morinville Community High School was hailed as a hero Thursday for taking over the wheel of a school bus full of students after the driver collapsed, and stopping it before it drove into an oncoming truck.

"Scary," Jesse Thomas said when describing what happened just after he boarded his school bus near Legal, Alta., north of Edmonton, on Wednesday morning.

The bus suddenly hit the ditch, Thomas said, but the driver was able to back the vehicle out onto the road.

After thinking he had put the vehicle in park, the driver laid down on the floor of the bus.

But the man had put the bus in reverse instead, and Thomas jumped up to take over. 

"I got into the driver's seat and put on the brakes," he said.  "I asked him if he was OK and if he wanted me to phone 9-1-1 and that's what I did."

The bus came to a stop only 100 metres from the highway just as a semi-truck was approaching.

Thomas said he then told the other students on the bus to stay calm while they waited for the ambulance to come.

Sixteen other students were on the bus with Thomas and the driver.

Thomas suffered only a bruised elbow. One boy suffered a broken leg, while five other students were injured. The 43-year-old driver was also taken to hospital.

The students on the bus ranged in age from six to 17. They attend Georges P. Vanier Elementary School, Georges H. Primeau Middle School, and Morinville Community High School.

Thomas said his parents told him they were proud of him, and he is also being hailed as a hero at his school by his friends and teachers.

"We take tremendous pride in the fact that he reacted and responded not just for himself, but for the other kids on the bus,"  said school principal Vic Pedersen. 

"Absolutely. Without question, " Pedersen said when asked if he thought Thomas was a hero.  "I'm proud that he's at our school."

The school plans to do something special to recognize the student, Pedersen said.