FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Heather Bowen felt like she had no reason to fear for the safety of the 10 high school-aged students on her Northwest ISD school bus Wednesday. She has been driving without major incident for three years.
Whether she knew it or not, the school district said the bus had just undergone a full maintenance check and received six new tires weeks before. Nonetheless, Bowen was forced to safely evacuate the students from the bus as it sat burning on the side of an interstate.
"Well, you know on Facebook I've seen people who are saying, 'You're a hero.' And I'm like, I don't know that I'm a hero," Bowen said. "I care about my students for one thing. And I want them to be safe."
But her students were definitely in danger Wednesday.
Bowen heard a loud noise on her school bus, while she was driving on I-35W and suddenly it wouldn't go any faster than 45 miles an hour. She drove on the interstate's shoulder and headed for an off ramp.
But Bowen's troubles were just beginning. "It was a driver, the first driver, who said there was smoke coming out of the back of the bus," Bowen recalled. "And she motioned for me to open the window, so I could hear her. Then the second driver also said 'your bus is on fire.'"
Bowen maneuvered her bus off an exit ramp. Cell phone video shows her calmly hustling the 10 high school students off the bus to safety as the flames engulf the bus.
"We got out and we did see there were flames from the back of the bus and we just moved farther and farther away," she said.
Bowen acted so quickly she she even left her purse and cell phone onboard. She says amazingly, she and all the students stayed calm.
"I think it's all adrenaline. You don't think about it until parents start coming and they're like, 'Are you okay?' And still the adrenaline is pumping until the end of the day," Bowen said. "I was thanking God that all the students were safe and they were off the bus. Just thanking God. He is awesome and he was there."
Bowen will be honored by the district during the school board meeting on Monday.
(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)
for more features.