FORT PIERCE, Fla. - One person kicked off the emergency response to a bus and tractor trailer crash Monday, and she was not an EMT or a firefighter. She's a 29-year-old mother who was driving home to pick her daughter up from the bus stop.
Houston Rigel was rounding the curve at Midway Road when she saw the accident Monday afternoon. She says she heard a boom. She got out of her car and was the first person to help a busload of children in dire need.
"A child was hanging out by her seat belt. I ran up there, and she looked a lot like my little girl. She had blonde hair," said Rigel.
She unbuckled the dangling girl and laid her on the grass. She then boarded the bus.
"It was the weirdest, scariest," Rigel said, looking away. "There wasn't a child moving. There wasn't a noise. It was just silent."
She said she started unbuckling seat belts, trying to make sure the children were okay until first responders arrived.
"They started screaming and crying, and it was the worst sound you could ever imagine," Rigel said. "It was like time was standing still."
She kept going from seat to seat, holding the kids as they cried for their mothers.
"I can't get the stillness out of my head. I can't get the little girl falling out of the back out of my head," Rigel recalled. "I feel so sorry for those parents."
Rigel says the images of the crash and the children keep her up at night. She insists she's not a hero. Rigel says she did what any mother would have done.
She tried to see some of the children Tuesday at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center in Fort Pierce, but she's not family, so she wasn't allowed in any of the patients' rooms.
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