It was Jean Jeune’s first day back at work after returning from vacation—talk about being thrown into the fire!
Jeune drives the NICE bus (Nassau Inter County Express) in New York, and his days are usually drama-free. But on this particular afternoon, the everyday bus driver would become a bonafide hero.
As Jeune was driving his usual route, he started to smell smoke. As he was pulling the car over, flames started shooting out of the hood. Everyone needed to evacuate the bus immediately. As the fire intensified, Jeune realized there was one passenger who wasn’t going to be able to get out on her own.
Cindy March often uses a wheelchair and is unable to go down stairs. When the bus caught fire, she thought she was going to die.
The electronic system that operates the wheelchair lift had gone out. The back up electricity was also out as a result of the fire. Without help, March would perish in the fiery blaze.
That’s when Jeune did something that many would fail to do: He put himself in danger for a complete stranger.
He ran through the bus cabin, thick with smoke and growing thicker, and wheeled Marsh to the steps at the front of the bus. When he got to the steps, he picked her up out of her wheelchair and carried her out of the burning bus.
Jeune carried the disabled woman all the way to the safety of a nearby elementary school.
In all the excitement, Marsh says she hadn’t realized that Jeune saved her life. It didn’t strike her until the elementary school principal told her as much.
“I don’t think I realized the magnitude of what he did until the principal said, you know, ‘He saved your life,'” she told the New York ABC affiliate. “I remember him rushing to unhook me, get me out of the wheelchair because I was strapped in … and he bear-hugged me and got me down the stairs.”
March says she lost her wheelchair in the blaze, but is lucky that Jeune was there to save her. “He’s my angel,” she said.
The entire ordeal was witnessed by a woman named Jodi Birns, who says she was driving by when it happened. “It was crazy because these flames were just shooting out of the bus,” she said. “And then there was somebody, a man, this great hero was carrying this woman trying to get her out.”
March is now trying to replace her wheelchair, which was expensive and custom designed to accommodate her condition. But she realizes how fortunate she is to be alive. The bus was completely engulfed in flames within 20 minutes, and everything inside of it was destroyed.
“I was lucky to have him,” said March, near tears as she thought about her brush with death.