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Florida Bus Driver, Monitor Rescue Toddler Along Route

A quick-acting school bus driver and monitor ensured another tragedy didn’t affect the community of Seminole County, Florida this week when the duo came to the aid of an unattended toddler seen running down the street.

Driver John Watkins and monitor Angela Watkins, a team at home as husband and wife as well as on the school bus, are being lauded as heroes less than two weeks after another small child ran into traffic and was killed.

John told STN that he and Angela had just dropped of the last student in Lake Mary, north of Orlando, to conclude a middle-school route on Monday when he looked to his left and saw the small boy wandering on the side of the road in only diapers and a T-shirt. John said he stopped the bus and activated the flashing lights and stop arm, and Angela got off the bus and crossed the street to attend to the child. Meanwhile, John called dispatch to report the incident and to receive further instruction.

Angela said she sprang into action when she and John saw the child. The next thing she knew, she was scooping up the child and holding him in her arms. At first, the child was scared, but then he was talking and laughing as it nothing happened.

“He was crying when I first picked him up, but then something kicked in,” she recalled. “It was just a mother’s instinct.”

Seminole County Public Schools dispatch summoned local law enforcement authorities, who quickly arrived on scene to take custody of the child. As she and John waited, Angela said she held the child and comforted him on the bus.

Julie Murphy, the district’s assistant transportation director, said the road on which the Watkins saw the child is heavily traveled and next to a large pond. She expressed pride in the school bus driver and monitor to helping avert another local tragedy. On Jan. 15 a 1-year-old boy escaped his crib, managed to leave his parents’ house and wandered onto nearby S.R. 46, where he was struck by a vehicle and killed. Murphy added that the community was devastated at the news and was still coming to grips with the child’s news when this latest incident occurred.

“Seminole County is not a huge county, so it sent a ripple effect through the community,” she added. “You hear of shootings everyday, you hear of burglaries, but not of a kid wandering out in the street and getting killed.”

The actions of the Watkins duo made sure this time the headlines were positive. She called John and Angela heroes.

“It was really such a heroic thing to me as we’re trying to come back as a community. My team was responsible for that,” Murphy said. “I’m so darn proud of these guys.”

John and Angela said they were just doing their job and utilizing their training. Murphy explained that in addition to the mandatory back-to-school training at the start of each school year employees attend monthly safety meetings. Additionally, every five years the district requires employees to retake the state-required 40 hours of training for new hires. Murphy added that Seminole County is one of the few districts to do this.

“We think it’s a really good practice to run them back because things change,” she said.

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