Pictured from left are AA Transportation drivers Hector Vazquez, Mike Ciesluk, Jose Blanco and Edward Bourgault; Julie D'Ambra, director of HR and safety; Ron Ernenwein, president and CEO; and drivers Blanca Lugo, Todd Williams, Robert Amadei and William Hogan.
BOSTON — School bus drivers here played a vital role in moving people away from the site of the marathon bombings.
Around 5 a.m. on Monday, April 15, drivers from AA Transportation Co. began their previously scheduled service of shuttling runners to the start of the Boston Marathon. They also transported injured runners from medical tents during the race.
After two bombs exploded near the finish line at 2:49 p.m., the eight AA Transportation drivers — Blanca Lugo, Hector Vazquez, Edward Bourgault, William Hogan, Jose Blanco, Todd Williams, Mike Ciesluk and Robert Amadei — stepped up and responded to the emergency.
AA Transportation President Ron Ernenwein said that although the company office had lost most communication with the drivers, they quickly began working with authorities to transport people away from the site.
"Not one person opted to go home, complained the assignment was too hard or took a break after the 18th hour of shuttling," Ernenwein wrote in a letter commending the drivers. "The area they were working in was complete mayhem, and with their professionalism, this group brought composure and calm for the folks that they transported."
Julie D'Ambra, AA Transportation's director of HR and safety, said that Williams was not far from the explosions as he was driving his bus to the medical tent on Boylston St.
The eight drivers evacuated runners and spectators away from the area, continuing their service into the evening.
"People were literally jumping out in front of their buses to get out of Boston," D'Ambra said. "Blanca even took some dogs on her bus to get them off the streets."
Authorities tapped into the school buses' GPS systems to divert the drivers around roadblocks and get them to those who were stranded.
"I am so impressed with [the drivers]," D'Ambra said. "There was not one who worried about themselves or how tired they were or that they hadn’t eaten or what they would be paid."
Thomas McMahon is executive editor of School Bus Fleet magazine.