Feb 12, 2010

Durham bus driver describes fiery Ajax car crash

It was like a scene out of a movie for Durham Region Transit bus driver Bob Williamson when he witnessed a spectacular accident at the Westney Road and Taunton Road intersection in late January.

"I saw the car hit the truck and fly through air the and flip upside down," said Mr. Williamson, a Whitby resident. "Before it stopped on the road, it was on fire."

The collision happened on Jan. 22 at about 10:30 a.m. when Mr. Williamson was driving the 915 Taunton bus. He had about 15 passengers on board.

"It's hard to describe. When you see it in the movies, it's a fun thing ... when you see it in real life, it's oh my God, it's actually happening."

The driver immediately asked his dispatch to report the emergency and then he moved his bus out of the way of traffic.

A former fire inspector, Mr. Williamson did what came naturally. He grabbed the fire extinguisher located behind the driver's seat and got to work. Other Good samaritans at the scene, including an OPP officer who happened to be in the area, also helped.

Three other people armed with fire extinguishers helped Mr. Williamson keep the fire at bay until the Ajax fire department arrived. Others helped the two men inside the car to get out.

"We had the flames right down to nothing, but as soon as we backed off, it flared up again," said Mr. Williamson, adding everyone who helped did a great job.

Once the Ajax fire department arrived, firefighters quickly got the fire under control.

Ajax Deputy Fire Chief Mark Diotte said he's not surprised the fire extinguishers weren't enough to put out the fire, but it certainly helped to prevent the fire from growing.

"In my experience, people who are trained with fire extinguishers will attempt to extinguish," he said. "It's generally human nature they want to help."

The key to any fire, though, is to contact the fire department as soon as possible, which occurred when DRT dispatch placed the call.

Mr. Williamson has been a bus driver for 20 years and his fire inspector days ended in the early 70s, but he said he still felt comfortable taking on the fire.

"It was instinctive, hey, there's a fire, go and do it ... besides the fellow was still in the car, I didn't see how they could get him out, but they did."

Sergeant Nancy van Rooy of the Durham Regional Police said there were no serious injuries in the crash. Both men in the car were 20 years old and from Ajax; the dump truck struck by the car was driven by a 52-year-old man from Stoney Creek.

"So far police have not laid charges, but charges may be pending," said Sgt. van Rooy.

Martin Ward, manager of transit operations for DRT's Westney division, said Mr. Williamson is being commended along with other employees who have recently done something exceptional. He added this isn't the first time drivers have acted quickly.

"The drivers call probably two or three times a month and get 911 stared for different accidents, they're like road watch," said Mr. Ward.

Besides traffic accidents, bus drivers also encounter medical emergencies such as seizures and they even keep a look out for missing persons when police are looking for someone.

In 2008 bus driver Rob Rowland was the first to discover a house fire in Ajax.

"He went and banged on the door and got everybody out," said Mr. Ward.

DRT also has a policy that lost children can get a ride home at no cost.

"If you see a bus, it's as good as a moving telephone booth in an emergency," said Mr. Ward.

And as for Mr. Williamson, he has a new nickname at work.

"We just refer to Bob as Firefighter Bob."

durhamregion.com | Durham bus driver describes fiery Ajax car crash.

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