Copyright 2014, Jules A. Staats; Library of Congress, USA.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. This work may be previewed only.

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Anything can happen so be very ready…..


Runaway Bus:

          Jay waited patiently at the County bus stop in downtown San Jose California.  It was a sunny and pleasant afternoon.  He now was wearing a Deputy Sheriff uniform once again, but had covered his shirt and part of his Sam Browne gun belt with a light windbreaker jacket.  He was planning to ride the express bus to Morgan Hill.

          The County had made a formal request to the Santa Clara County Sheriff for deputies going home to ride the busses for additional security of the passengers.  As a result the trip was of no cost to the rider.  Deputies who rode these busses usually wore a plain cover jacket so that they could identify law breakers before the perpetrators noticed the “cover coat” uniformed deputies.

          This afternoon he had no other deputy riding with him.  The bus arrived on time and he walked through the front door about fifth in line.  He then took his seat which he called a position of advantage; the center of the last rear positions in the bus.  As he relaxed and observed the end of day commuters filing in he noticed the bus driver walk outside the vehicle.  That was not unusual as the wait time was usually ten minutes to allow more people to catch the express transportation.

          Ten minutes can seem like twenty when a person is anxious to get home.  Jay continued observing passengers but was feeling some strain as he counted the minutes as they rolled by.  He perked up when he saw the driver return and take a seat behind the wheel.  He was more than ready for the bus to roll non-stop to Morgan Hill where his wife would be waiting with the family car.

          A passenger who had seen Jay get on the bus and knew he was a deputy sheriff walked to the back and advised him that the bus driver appeared to be possibly ill.  Jay was only an hourly Extra Deputy Sheriff but had been given full law enforcement authority by the Sheriff.  His years with Los Angeles County as a compensated Deputy Sheriff had imprinted in his mind to never ignore what might be a problem.

          He quickly strolled up to a position just in front of the so-called white passenger limit line and started to question the driver of the bus, asking if he was OK.  At that moment the driver pulled the automatic transmission lever into gear and pressed the accelerator pedal.  Jay was pulled off balance, but knew full well that the traffic light was red for the bus.  Cars were speeding by from left to right as well as the other direction.  Even with a driver at the wheel this was now a runaway bus that would in all probability sustain a broadside collision by an express road driver doing over 55 miles par hour.

          Fortunately he had driven these vehicles before and therefore was able to act in an instant.  He pulled the yellow parking brake knob and turned off the “ignition” switch quickly, causing a rush of compressed air and a violent stop.  He fell forward and bounced against the windshield.  All the passengers surged forward but no one was injured.  The bus was mere inches from entering the intersection.

          He was about to ask the driver why in the world would he try to move the bus forward into an intersection against a red light and into speeding cross traffic.  Instead the bus driver just looked past him with glazed eyes.

          The driver then opened the front passenger door, and without saying a word just started to leave the bus.  Jay could only watch as the driver then fell forward with his hands at his side.  His face smashed against the pavement.  The result of this impact was terribly traumatic to the driver. 

          Fortunately, since the bus had not entered the intersection they were still right near a pay phone; common still at that time.  The deputy asked someone to pick up the phone and to call for help.  Shortly a Fire Rescue unit and a San Jose Police unit arrived.  It was determined that the driver was now extremely drunk and that his breath smelled strongly of an alcoholic beverage.  Due to extensive facial injuries, the bus driver was transported to a local hospital.  He would be charged with drunk driving upon his release from treatment.

          Jay will never know what possessed this driver to leave the bus, gulp a huge amount of alcohol and then attempt to drive away.  He knows that if he had not been in this bus and taken action, there would have been a terrible crash as speeding commenters impacted a passenger bus.  Injuries and even deaths could have resulted, except that the County had asked for off-duty Deputy Sheriffs to provide transportation security and Jay “just happened” to be there at the exact time and place to stop the runaway bus, preventing the possible catastrophic collision that was to occur.

          It was a very bad day for the bus driver, but a great day for many others.


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