Wednesday, May 22, 2013
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July 02, 2012
MONMOUTH/INDEPENDENCE -- A bus driver for Central School District is being hailed as a hero for saving a student from choking on the last day of school.
Curtis Nelson, who's only been driving a bus for less than a year, was on a morning route in the Suver area of Polk County when the incident occurred on June 11.
"Curtis showed quick thinking and knew what to do without hesitation," said Patricia Green, Central's transportation supervisor. "He very likely saved this girl's life."
Nelson was recognized by his peers, Central leaders and community members during a ceremony on Monday.
Nelson said there were only four people on the bus at the time -- his two grandchildren and two Central High siblings.
"We were on a gravel road, I heard yelling from the back of the bus and put on the air brake," Nelson said. "The (high school) boy said his sister was choking."
Green said the girl -- 15-year-old Kara Canniff -- was sucking on a jawbreaker that got stuck in her windpipe. Nelson said he had to apply the Heimlich maneuver four times before he was able to dislodge the candy.
"I thought it was a great thing that he did," said Melissa Canniff, Kara's mother. "He actually saved my daughter's life. No one else on the bus seemed to know what to do."
Canniff said her daughter was grateful for Nelson's quick action.
"She was still kind of in shock I think," Canniff said, describing her daughter's frame of mind after she arrived home that day. "She said her throat hurt, but she was really glad he was there and knew what to do."
Nelson, 56, worked construction for most of his life before taking the driving job at Central. He's had lifesaving training before, but never had to use it, he said.
"Our transportation department does a good job with us," Nelson said. "The training just kicked in ... I was very relieved to see (Kara) breathing and smiling afterward, I can tell you that."
Nelson called his supervisors to let them know he was going to be late getting to school. Nelson said when he arrived at Central High, Kara tossed the candy she had choked on in the garbage, turned to two small children still on board, and said `This is why you don't have candy on the bus.'"
Green said there have only been four times in the 25 years she's been involved in school transportation that a bus driver has actually had to use lifesaving training to help students.
"I don't really feel like a hero," Nelson said. "Anybody would have done the same thing ... I was just really relieved she was OK."
Canniff, who attended Monday's presentation, said she, on the other hand, will be the first to call Nelson a hero.
"I plan on thanking him, that's for sure," she said.
Jolene Guzman contributed to this story.