Covington native and sign language interpreter Lee Morris prevented a school bus filled with Pinckney Elementary fourth-graders from flipping over in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. (Special photo)
COVINGTON — Covington native and Newton High School graduate Lee Morris is being nationally recognized as a hero after his role in preventing a school bus filled with students from flipping over.
Morris, a sign language interpreter at Pinckney Elementary in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., and fellow teacher, Amy Ryan, are being credited for their bravery in a tense situation when on Dec. 4 the school bus driver of the bus they were on lost control of the vehicle, creating an unexpected off-road journey for those on board.
Ryan and Morris, who was assisting a hearing-impaired student, were on the bus with two other teachers and 26 fourth-grade students on their way back from a field trip at Bulls Island, just outside of Charleston.
“We were at a T-intersection, and the driver didn’t stop all the way before turning left at the stop sign,” Morris said on Thursday.
Morris said that the Charleston County School District has stated that the driver had had a momentary medical episode. Since the incident, Hacker is no longer employed by Durham School Services, the company who hires bus drivers for the local area.
According to Morris, the driver appeared to be going too fast and turned too wide at the intersection, causing the bus to roll into a ditch. The driver fell out of his seat after the bus went into the ditch, which sparked a sense of urgency for Morris.
Amid the screams of the fourth graders, Morris jumped out of his seat after realizing that the driver had fallen out of his. Morris said he grabbed hold of the steering wheel, while Ryan came forward to operate the brakes that were out of the driver’s reach.
According to some witness accounts, the bus appeared to be only a few inches from flipping over the edge of the ditch.
“It all seemed to happen so fast,” Morris recalled.
When asked what was going through his mind during the incident, Morris said “Honestly, not a whole lot. I just thought ‘Oh man, nobody’s driving the bus,’ so I just jumped up and did what I had to.”
Morris added that both parents and students alike have been very thankful to him and Ryan since the near-crash occurred. The Charleston County school board has also recognized Morris and Ryan for their heroism.