Skip Torpey, a bus driver for Scio Central School District in Allegheny County, New York, saved a woman’s life after finding her “blue and cold,” and unresponsive in her garage.
Torpey had altered his pre-kindergarten bus route on April 18, because of the children on the bus. After confirming that change with his supervisor, he pulled up to his last stop of the day.
“Normally there would have been more kids on the bus, but the way he turned the route around, based on who he had on that day, it made it so the only kid on the bus was the child at that stop,” explained Transportation Supervisor Jayson Chandler.
When Torpey arrived at the child’s house, the child’s mother was not at the stop. Torpey said he saw a car in the garage with the car doors open and a vacuum cleaner next to it. School district policy normally requires the bus driver to radio dispatch when a parent isn’t present to receive their child. School district officials will then call the parents.
Torpey said he assumed the mother was vacuuming her car and that she didn’t hear the bus pull up, so he asked his bus monitor, Linda Harris, to walk the child to the house.
“I saw her mother’s doors were open on the car. Our policy is not to let a child off unless we see the parents, which I agree with and we enforce very strictly,” Torpey recalled. “And so, I sent my monitor up with the child and she came walking back to the road and said ‘Skip, you have to get up there right now.’”
Skip said he parked his bus and proceeded into the garage, where he found the mother laying on the floor. He said she was ice cold to the touch and not breathing. Torpey radioed Chandler and requested an ambulance as well as permission to begin CPR.
“When he asked me if he should do CPR I said, ‘Yes, something is better than nothing, you have to do something,’” Chandler said.
While Torpey and the other bus drivers for the district are not currently CPR certified, all employees have received the training. Torpey added that he was certified when he served in the U.S Marines, and the training is something he could never forget.
As Harris stayed with the child on the school bus, Torpey returned to the garage and performed CPR. Torpey said he continued compressions until an ambulance arrived.
“I got down on my knees on the concrete and did CPR for probably 10 or so minutes,” Torpey said. “And the next to the last time I did it, I saw her belly move a little bit. The EMTs weren’t there yet, so I did it again. Every time I was doing it, I thought my arms couldn’t do it anymore. I am going to be 74 in two weeks, so it’s kind of hard to do that much CPR, I guess for anybody.”
During the CPR compressions, Torpey was talking to the mother. “You have a child on the bus. Easter is coming. You can’t leave your child behind,” Torpey told her. He added the child is four years old.
“I was just running my mouth because I was nervous, I think,” Torpey added.
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During the last chest compression, Torpey said he heard the mother make a grumbling noise and she started breathing, just as the EMTs arrived.
“It was just a crazy chain of events that turned out, thank God for the best, and everybody is pretty proud of [Torpey], I know I am,” Chandler said. “And being his boss, I also consider him a friend.”
The school recognized Torpey and Harris for their actions. Every student, teacher, bus driver, aide, and administrator stood in the bus loop at the school campus, armed with oversized cards, but still able to high-five the driver and monitor.
“When I got back one day to drive pre-k, [Chandler] told me I had to show up early, and I asked him why, and he wouldn’t tell me,” Torpey said. “So, he said we have to go for a walk, and I didn’t know what was going on. They had kept it a pretty good secret, especially with me, I find out everything. So, we walked around to the front of the school and there are all the kids standing there in the bus loop, screaming and yelling…. Some of them wanted hugs, some of them told me they want to get back on my bus.”
Torpey said the mother he saved also thanked him for his actions.
“When I came back from Easter break and I dropped her child off, she told me, ‘You are getting off the bus; I want to give you a hug,’” Torpey said. “She crushed me. She hugged me twice and gave me a kiss on the cheek twice. I told my wife not to get jealous.”
Torpey added that his wife cried when she first heard about the incident, because she so was proud of him. However, this wasn’t the first time Torpey has surpassed his daily bus driver duties to be a hero.
Torpey recalled another incident that took place about eight years ago during a snowstorm. The mother of a student in a wheelchair tried to drive her to school but became stuck in the snow.
“So, there she was, trying to drag [the child] in a sleeping bag. It was blowing and snowing it and it was nastier than heck,” Torpey said. “I told my monitor to watch the bus, so I went out and carried the daughter through the snow, and it was knee-deep. I had a hard time getting her to the bus.”
Both Chandler and Torpey said that they live in a small town. The school is pre-k through 12th grade and has a little under 400 students. Chandler said that the school district personnel make a habit of doing extra for the students and their parents, because of the close-knit community.
“I have been here 23 years, and [Torpey] has been here 15. We know everybody,” Chandler said. “A lot of the kids we are hauling are the kids of the parents we hauled, too.”
Torpey added that he graduated from Scio Central and that many of the students’ grandparents went to school with him.
“I graduated from this school, too, so I probably have 30 years here, and I still [can’t] got out of school,” Torpey said.
Photos courtesy of the Scio Central School District.