Toronto

'Could have been a wrecking ball': Ontario woman saves bus on her first ride in 25 years

Rebecca Powley says she was forced to take action after she noticed something unusual about the driver on her Ontario Northland bus.

'It was a little crazy,' Rebecca Powley says of taking the wheel from the slumped-over bus driver

Rebecca Powley and her 11-year-old son, Connor were riding an Ontario Northland bus from Orillia to Yorkdale Shopping Centre Thursday when their driver lost conciousness at the wheel. Powley guided the bus to the shoulder of Highway 401. (Submitted)

Rebecca Powley hopped on a bus for the first time in 25 years on Thursday. She ended the trip a hero.

The Orillia woman says she was forced to take action after she noticed something unusual about the driver on her Ontario Northland bus trip to Toronto on Highway 401 eastbound near Keele Street.

"We saw his arm was kind of drooped on the floor," she told CBC Toronto on Friday. "He was passed out with his head on the wheel. For a second, I thought he was maybe dead."

Other passengers began to panic. Confusion reigned for Laurie Gennings, who was sitting at the back of the bus.

Laurie Gennings says an incident on the bus he was aboard on Thursday 'could have been a lot worse' if not for Powley's quick thinking. (Grant Linton/CBC)

"There was a bit of a commotion at the front and then someone turned around and yelled, 'Can anyone drive a bus?'" he told CBC News on Thursday. "And at that point we all kind of panicked because the bus was still moving."

That's when Powley jumped in. 

"I went up and took his foot off the gas and steered the bus onto the right-hand shoulder out of traffic," she said. "I had to put my hand on the brake 'cause he was in the seat.

"It was a little crazy," she added.

The driver was a 62-year-old man who "came to 5 minutes after and looked completely surprised as to where he was," Powley said. "I asked him if he was diabetic or had any medical conditions, but he didn't."

'Could have been a lot worse'

Powley, who was travelling with her 11-year-old son, Connor, says the bus was travelling at about 40 kilometres an hour in stop-and-go traffic.

OPP Const. Robert Knight credits her for saving the day. 

"It could've been a lot worse if that woman hadn't stepped in when she did," he said Thursday. "All of those people on that bus should thank her."

Ontario Provincial Police say the driver lost consciousness but had recovered by the time police arrived on scene. He was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure (CBC)

Gennings agrees. 

"Who knows, we could have been a wrecking ball in rush hour at Yorkdale," he said. 

Powley said she was calm during the episode and says other passengers quickly adjusted.

"Some people came up to the driver, just looked at him and then got off and had a cigarette," she recalled. 

Her son documented the action.

"He was taking photographs and madly texting his dad through it all," she said. 

Ontario Provincial Police confirmed the driver had recovered by the time police arrived on scene. He was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure.

Ontario Northland eventually deployed a second driver to continue the rest of the trip that ended at the Bay Street bus terminal. 

Powley and her son were on their way to St. Louis, Mo., to visit family. She says Ontario Northland has offered her free rides for life — but they plan on flying back.

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