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Kirkwood’s Fire Chief details I-44 school bus rescue and training

ST. LOUIS, MO (KTVI) - Kirkwood's Fire Chief Jim Silvernail is amazed all 13 students and the bus driver are going to be OK. Their school bus went airborne over an I-44 guardrail and into a steep ravine Thursday morning.

Fire fighters had to cut through a fence to get to the bus driver. She was trapped and losing consciousness. The bus was taking Parkway students to Hanna Woods Elementary School. It crashed Thursday morning along I-44 near Lindbergh. The kids, ages 6 to 17, got out with the help of bystanders. The bus driver could not.

"Because of the position of the bus, and the way that the metal was crinkled around the victim; it was a very difficult rescue," said Fire Chief Jim Silvernail.

Kirkwood and Crestwood fire fighters chainsawed the thick brush and navigated the slippery slope to find the woman pinned under the dash. THey broke out the heavy equipment. A jaws of life and a device called a ram. Chief Silvernail says it still took crews 30 minutes to get her to out.

"They ended up taking a chain, hooking it up to the jaws of life, and pulling the seat back and getting the patient out that way," said Fire Chief Jim Silvernail.

Departments train for incidents like this. FOX 2 covered St. Charles Firefighters responding to a staged school bus crash earlier this week. Wentzville had the training today. They call it a mass casualty incident which is their lingo for multiple injuries, but it can also mean death.

The firefighters say all involved, especially the bus driver, are lucky to be alive.

Chief Silvernail says a tree branch pierced through the windshield and ended up just inches away from impacting the bus drivers head.