Ontario woman steers bus to safety after driver passes out on busy highway

On Thursday, Rebecca Powley took her first bus ride in 25 years, with all the hallmarks of a typical long holiday commute.

Then came an unexpected twist. The bus, traveling east on Highway 401 near the Keele Street off-ramp, began to slow down and straddle the lanes.

“I’m emailing my husband saying, ‘Oh, I understand why you say the bus is nice. It’s relaxing, it’s warm, free Wi-Fi, power, plug-in — great. Next thing I knew, there’s this little old lady,” she recalled over Skype.

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“I’m about five rows back, and she’s saying, ‘Bus driver! Bus driver! Are you all right?’ and I thought, ‘Oh, my.’”

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Powley was traveling with her 11-year-old son Conor on the Ontario Northland bus bound for Toronto.

They intended to stop at Yorkdale Shopping Centre before taking an Uber to Pearson International Airport.

Instead, the Orillia woman leapt into action to assist the bus driver, who was now sweating profusely.

“We were either in the middle or the far-left lanes. I had to get to the right shoulder.”

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Ontario Northland said the driver suffered medical distress, but did not elaborate on his condition. He was taken to hospital and released shortly afterwards.

“The driver was slumped over the wheel, completely unconscious,” Powley said. “I reached down, took his foot off the gas, and I reached over him and steered it over.”

Powley checked the driver’s vital signs and instructed one of the passengers to call 911.

A spokesperson for Ontario Northland says the company has policies in place to ensure bus operators are fit to be behind the wheel.

To show their appreciation for Powley’s heroics, Ontario Northland says she can now ride free of charge.

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Fellow passenger Laurie Gennings says he wanted to express his gratitude to the woman he knew only as “Rebecca” up until Friday afternoon.

“Thank you. And hopefully karma comes back your way in 2018,” he told Global News from Ajax on Friday.

In a fortuitous turn of events, Powley’s flight was delayed, so even with the temporary stop on the 401, she and Conor still made it to their destination in time.

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