Worcester County

Young students watch as Worcester school bus driver battles raging car fire

WORCESTER, Mass. — It was to be a typical afternoon run for Worcester School Bus Driver Peggy Holloway — until it wasn’t.

Monday, Holloway was about to pull away from the La Familia Dual Language School on Grafton Street.

“And all of a sudden I hear a big bang,” Holloway said. “And I look over and I see this car engine or tire had blown up. And there was fire and smoke underneath.”

Holloway saw the occupants of the vehicle flee — a man, a woman and a small baby. But the fire she spotted was raging. A school bus driver for 35 years, Holloway knew what had to be done.

“I said, ‘let me get my fire extinguisher and try and put it out,’” she said. “I aimed it towards the fire because I’m thinking I can actually put it out.”

That proved easier said than done. Aboard Holloway’s bus, one of the dozen children heading home, 10-year-old Mia Santos, filmed Holloway’s firefighting efforts — up to the point she was overwhelmed by smoke.

“There was so much smoke going towards my bus and the bus behind me,” Holloway said. “There was so much smoke I backed off.”

Stacy Harris was serving as Holloway’s Bus Monitor and called 911.

“Then the smoke started coming in,” Harris said. “Peggy was trying to put the fire out. It ignited, like, three times.”

Harris got the children, ages 5-11, off the bus. One other bus was also evacuated.

“They were saying they wanted their moms,” she said. “I just kept saying it was okay... you’re going to be safe. We would never let anything hurt you. They love their school, they love their teachers and they love each other. They were so compassionate towards each other.”

Some even began to pray, Harris said.

Help arrived minutes later — but not before Holloway served as a traffic cop, directing vehicles around the burning vehicle while fearing it would blow up.

“It was a scary, scary situation,” she said. “And believe me, it did cross my mind that the car would blow up while I was standing there.”

“Peg is representative of our school bus drivers,” said John Hennessey, Director of Transportation for Worcester Public Schools. “Peg just jumped into action without thinking about it, saw something that needed to be done and her training kicked in.”

As did her humanity.

“I just went ahead and did what I had to do because, to me, trying to save a life or other lives around me is what matters,” Holloway said. “I would hope someone would do that for me if it happened to me.”

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