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Police officer honored for saving driver, monitor from bus fire

Christopher Canale

New York City Police Officer Christopher Canale was honored at Tuesday night’s Riverhead school board meeting for saving a district bus driver and monitor from a burning bus last Thursday.

School bus monitor Grace Robertson was in attendance with her family as school board president Sue Koukounas outlined his heroic efforts. He was off-duty and traveling with his family when the accident occurred.

“He entered the burning vehicle to assist the monitor off the bus and then went to the driver’s door to pull the driver out from under the collapsed steering column,” Ms. Koukounas said. “The Board of Education takes great pleasure in recognizing Officer Christopher Canale … and expresses its sincere gratitude for the actions he took, saving the lives of employees of the Riverhead Central School District.”

Mr. Canale, who attended the meeting with several family members, simply said thanks for the recognition after he was presented with a plaque.

Jackie Powell thanking Christopher Canale for saving her mother's life.
Jackie Powell thanking Christopher Canale for saving her mother’s life.

During a press conference last week, he said: “As a father of two the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘Are there any children on the bus?’ … I told the driver to hold onto my arm, and I was able to wedge him from between the steering wheel and the seat.”

The gasoline mini bus, which Superintendent Nancy Carney said was about a year old, caught fire after having an accident with a truck on the Long Island Expressway in Manorville. No students were on board.

Ms. Robertson and her children, Glen Robertson and Jackie Powell, were all every emotional after meeting Mr. Canale for the first time Tuesday night.

Christopher Canale meeting Grace Robertson for the first time on Tuesday.
Christopher Canale meeting Grace Robertson (sitting) for the first time on Tuesday. Her children, Glen Robertson, left, and Jackie Powell, center, said they were grateful for Mr. Canale’s heroic efforts.

“We’re very grateful,” Ms. Powell said in an interview. “We wouldn’t have my mother here if it wasn’t for him.”

As Ms. Robertson left the auditorium in a wheelchair, she turned to Mr. Canale and his two children, Christian and Jake, and said: “God bless you.”

“Thank you, everybody,” she repeated several times with tears in her eyes as many people in the audience cried.

John Weber, the school bus driver injured in the accident, wasn’t able to attend Tuesday’s meeting and has been recovering at home, Ms. Carney confirmed.

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Top photo: New York City Police Officer Christopher Canale with a plaque the school board presented to him on Tuesday. (Credit: Jen Nuzzo photos)