A South Carolina town breathed a sigh of relief earlier this month when an attempt to hijack a school bus was foiled with no harm to the children. Since then, the bus driver has been hailed as a hero for keeping his young passengers safe. However, he says he couldn’t have done it without the kids’ persistent questioning of the hijacker.
The hijacking occurred on the morning of May 6 in Columbia, South Carolina. Surveillance footage captured the moment that 23-year-old Jovan Collazo confronted driver Kenneth Corbin, who tried to refuse him entry.
“I had to tell him that twice, and when I told him that, that’s when he presented his weapon and told me to close the door and move and drive,” Corbin told Good Morning America. “It was just a matter of staying calm and following his instructions and thinking about the kids, because I didn’t want to do anything that would rile him to cause him to do something that would bring harm to the kids.”
Collazo, an Army trainee at Fort Jackson, had escaped that facility earlier in the morning, officials said. According to fort commander Brig. Gen. Milford H. Beagle Jr., Collazo hopped the center’s fence due to separation anxiety from his family. Beagle said Colazzo’s weapon was not loaded.
“There is nothing that leads us to believe, through his counseling, through anything in his screening records, that this had anything to do with harming others,” the commander said.
Corbin said the hijacker was in a particular rush to get to the next town over.
“He told me to speed up and don’t let the ride light catch me,” Corbin said. “That’s when he moved the kids up front, and then he wanted to know, again, how far, and all I could say was,’ ’20 miles because we haven’t gone that far.'”
It was around this time, Corbin said, that the kids asked Collazo if he was a soldier, to which the hijacker “hesitantly answered yes.” From there, the questions kept coming.
“They asked him, ‘Why are you doing this?’ He never did have an answer for this one. They asked, was he going to hurt them? He said no. They asked, ‘are you going to hurt our bus driver?’ He said, ‘No, I’m going to put you off the bus,'” Corbin said.
“He sensed more questions coming and I guess something clicked in his mind and he said, ‘Enough is enough already,’ and he told me to stop the bus and just get off,” the driver continued.
Collazo kicked Corbin and the children off the bus after traveling just four miles in six minutes. He later abandoned the bus in a nearby neighborhood, where police found him looking for new clothes and a ride. He now faces two dozen criminal charges, including 19 counts of kidnapping.
“[I’ve] been sheriff for 25 years, been a cop for 46 years, and this is the first time that I’ve ever had a call like I had this morning, where we had an armed person on a school bus that had hijacked and kidnapped a bunch of kids,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said in a news conference. “And I cannot tell you the emotions that you feel when you hear something like that, not just as the sheriff, but as a parent.”
The sheriff also took time to commend Corbin’s handling of the situation.
“You can see and hear how calm he was, how controlled he was and how his training was put to good use,” Lott said of the driver.
Corbin, however, gives at least part of the credit to the “precious cargo” he carried that day.
“I pretty much had to do whatever to get them off the bus safe and sound,” he said. “It seemed like they were going to do the same thing by me, and that’s why I refer to them as my heroes.”