Honoring student heroes

State Police Trooper Cynthia Schick (front left) speaks to a gym full of Titusville High School students. Schick, County Department of Public Safety Director Greg Beveridge (back right) and other county and EMS officials took time on Tuesday to honor three students, (from left to right) Caitlin Nordin, Kenny Claypoole and Dylan Claypoole.

When a Titusville Area School District bus crashed and flipped onto its side on Monday, April 25, three Titusville High School students decided to take matters into their own hands. The three students, Kenny and Dylan Claypoole and Caitlin Nordin, went above and beyond to make sure everyone was okay and out of the bus, and then rendered aid.

“These kids jumped into action immediately,” said Superintendent Stephanie Keebler. “I am just really proud of them.”

After being recognized at a school board meeting Monday night, the students were congratulated and thanked at an all-school assembly Tuesday morning, with first responders and county EMS officials in attendance.

To show their appreciation, first responders who responded to the scene came to help thank the students, including members of the Titusville Fire Department, Pennsylvania State Police and Emergycare.

“It is great to see young people stepping up,” said Greg Beveridge, director of the county Department of Public Safety. He also noted the care and compassion they showed when helping their fellow students, and how they stayed cool, calm and collected.

On a Monday morning in April, 25 Titusville students were on a district bus on their way to school, like they have done hundreds of times before. According to a police report from state police, at 7:30 a.m. the bus driver lost control while traveling east on State Highway 408, west of Patterson Road.

The bus entered a deep berm on the right side of the roadway. The driver then turned the wheel to get the bus out of the berm, causing her to lose control. The bus then traveled across both lanes of traffic before striking an embankment, and turning over onto its side, before coming to a rest against a small tree.

Hydetown bus crash

Pictured is the school bus that crashed in Hydetown on April 25.

With the driver injured and the students shaken up, the three older students took matters into their own hands. After coming to their senses, and taking note of their own injuries, Kenny and Dylan and Nordin went to work getting everyone off the bus.

“With all the younger kids there it made the situation stressful,” said Nordin. “The first thing I thought about was getting the younger kids off the bus.”

Kenny offered similar sentiments, saying “When I got up the first thing I thought was if everyone was ok, and get people evacuated.”

After Kenny called 911, and according to Beveridge provided valuable information to the 911 Center, the students made sure that the younger kids were safe. After getting the kids off the bus, Kenny went to go for the driver, who had suffered a broken collarbone.

Although he has tried to downplay his heroic actions, Kenny’s brother Dylan said he saw his brother carrying the driver out of the bus. “All I did was lift her up and help her off the bus,” said Kenny.

Once everyone was off the bus, the students started triage. The students created two groups, those who were injured and needed medical attention, and those that were just shaken up. By the time first responders got to the scene the students were in the two groups separated by the school bus.

With everyone out of the bus, Nordin went back in for one last item, a first aid kit. The first person she gave medical attention to were the Claypoole brothers. Kenny had a gash on his arm, and Dylan had a minor injury to his head. Armed with just gauze, Nordin went around to make sure anyone who was bleeding was taken care of.

The three students acted bravely when facing an emergency situation, and both Beveridge and Pennsylvania State Police Trooper Cynthia Schick said they acted with the same mindset as trained EMS professionals.

“It is not often adolescents have to step up and do the job of adults,” said Beveridge. “Being a first responder is a hard task even when you are getting paid to do it,” said Schick, who noted that they bravely stepped up in the face of adversity. Schick thanked the students not only as a first responder, but also as a mother who has a child in the district.

The students said after the bus crash, they entered a fight or flight type of reaction. Kenny said that he went off of instinct, but also kept in mind training he had received when he was growing up about bus evacuations.

“The most important takeaway for us as a school district was that all the training we do, bus evacuation, fire drills, and more, those all serve a purpose,” said High School Principal Garrett Knapp. “We do that to train kids how to react when something bad happens. Kenny, Caitlin and Dylan were able to react and keep level heads. Being the older students on the bus they were able to take care of the younger students, and did a fantastic job going through the whole process.”

While the students appreciated being recognized by the EMS and county officials, they said when the bus crashed they weren’t thinking about being heroes.

 “At the end of the day, I am just glad the kids are okay and made it out without major injuries,” said Kenny.

“The one thing on my mind that morning was getting everyone out safe, and we did that,” said Nordin.

Dvorkin can be reached by email at Gdvorkin@titusvilleherald.com.

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