Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Paulding County Woman Stops Bus After Driver Passes Out


HIRAM, Ga. -- A Paulding County woman takes no credit for saving a bus-full of passengers Tuesday.

Lorraine Gobert, who was sitting in the front of the bus, did see the driver, Victor Dewhart, passing out during the morning commute on U.S. Highway 278 as he drove from Hiram into Powder Springs. And in a manner of speaking she did jump up to help. And there's no question she steered the bus off of the busy highway, during rush hour, to a safe stop.

But Lorraine Gobert, 59, is a woman of faith. She smiles as she explains why she now believes -- she was pushed.

Ms. Gobert has difficulty just getting in and out of the bus for her daily, 50-minute morning commute on her GRTA Xpress bus from Hiram to her federal government job in downtown Atlanta. She has arthritis and other ailments, and walks slowly, with a cane.

Tuesday morning as her commute began, it was still dark. She was in her regular seat at the front of the bus, comfortably reading her electronic Bible, as she does every morning. All was normal. She finished, and was in the middle of her morning, silent prayer, "A short, little prayer," she said.

"But my prayer got cut short. I felt a swerving. So I glanced over there at the driver and his eyes were closed, with his head down like this. I managed to say, 'Vic.' And I wanted to get up. But somehow the bus threw me over, because it was going sideways... It kind of gave me a little push into him. So that probably got me there quicker than I was able to get up [out of] my seat... And I landed on him. So I just took the steering wheel and tried to steer it, to make the bus stop. So I steered it toward a tree, so it could stop."

As she tells the story, her hands begin to shake -- again.

"After it happened, I just started shaking. My whole body started shaking.... One of the passengers from the back came up, named Mack. And I just grabbed his hand, held his hand... my knees were dancing, jumping. Reality kicked in."

The reality, to Lorraine Gobert, is that this brush with unspeakable tragedy struck like a lightning bolt right in the middle of the same prayer she prays every morning on the bus at the beginning of her commute to work.

Every morning, "I just ask for guidance on this highway, take care of us on this bus. That's my prayer.... Take care of us on this bus, because you got to pray yourself to safety."

And this day, in the middle of her daily prayer, before she could finish it --

"Yup. That's why I say God must have intervened, and threw me over there.... Because I might have moved too slow, but He threw me over there.... God took over. That's what happened. Because if it hadn't been for Him -- me, a little slow getting up from my seat trying to get there -- I think it was God pushing me over there so I could get there in a hurry, you know, put my little two-cents in" to help.

Twenty-three people, including the driver, got off of the bus, without serious injury.

Along with one more --

that angel who rides next to Lorraine Gobert every day.

When rescue crews arrived, they told the passengers they would have to climb out of the bus through the windows because the doors would not open.

Lorraine Gobert would have nothing to do with that.

"I said I'm not going out through no window, how can you see me walking with a cane and I'm going to go out through a window? I said y'all are going to have to do something to get this door open, you know."

Rescue crews were not about to argue with Lorraine Gobert.

"So the firemen got those jaws, the jaws of life. And cut the door off. And we were able to get out that way."

Powder Springs Police are investigating what happened, and are awaiting a report on the medical condition of the driver, Victor Dewhart. Police will consider ticketing or charging the driver, or closing the case without charging him, depending on whether he fell asleep or was suddenly taken ill.

Ms. Gobert took a sick day, Tuesday. She was one of three passengers who went to a hospital and were treated and released. Ms. Gobert has a sore neck, shoulder and knee.

Other passengers called her at home throughout the day, thanking her.

Dennis McAllister was in the back of the bus and went ahead to work on the replacement bus that arrived at the scene.

"I thought maybe a tire had blown" at first, McAllister said. "It happened very quickly. I just feel bad for the driver. I hope he's okay. Victor, we all know Victor. He takes care of us. And he's a very good driver. And I'm just concerned about Victor."

And McAllister's eyes light up when he speaks of Lorraine Gobert and her "two cents worth of help," as she described it.

"Well, you know, people have a tendency to do that when tough times come. People pitch in and take care of other people. And I guess that's what makes America so great, huh? Makes America so great."

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