The two victims injured when the Riverhead school minibus they were driving in crashed on the Long Island Expressway and caught fire Thursday afternoon are now resting at home, district superintendent Nancy Carney said Friday.
In an emailed statement, Ms. Carney praised the efforts of off-duty NYPD traffic cop Christopher Canale, who helped pull the two from the burning bus.
“His actions are selfless and heroic,” Ms. Carney said. “On behalf of the entire school district, I cannot thank him enough. We will be reaching out to him as a District in order to invite him to meet with us so we can thank him personally.”
No students were on board at the time of the fire.
Suffolk County Police said the bus — which was on its way to BOCES in Bellport to pick up students — and a truck collided on the LIE in Manorville about 1:20 p.m. Ms. Carney said “another vehicle on the highway had an emergency” which “touched off” the accident.
The bus caught fire and became engulfed in flames after the crash. That’s when Mr. Canale sprung into action “at great personal risk to himself,” Ms. Carney said.
Mr. Canale was driving west on the highway with his family while off-duty when he saw the accident, according to the New York Police Department. Mr. Canale pulled over and rushed to the burning bus, pulling the door open.
Inside, he found the driver was pinned, according to an NYPD statement. Mr. Canale immediately asked who else was on the bus.
“As a father of two the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Are there any children on the bus?’ ” Mr. Canale said.
The bus driver told Mr. Canale there was only an aide on the school bus, but he couldn’t see her through the thick smoke. The aide managed to “follow the officer’s voice down the bus aisle” and got out safely, according to the NYPD.
Officer Canale then went to the driver’s side door and pulled the driver out of the burning bus.
The fire was later extinguished by volunteers from the Manorville Fire Department. The victims were treated by Riverhead emergency personnel, authorities said.
The right and center lanes of the westbound LIE were closed briefly at exit 72 about 2:30 p.m., according to the state Department of Transportation.
Photo credit: courtesy, New York Police Department
Clarification: An earlier version of this story paraphrased Ms. Carney as saying the accident was caused by another driver having an emergency which started the crash. Ms. Carney’s direct quote was that the accident was “touched off” not caused by the emergency.