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A reluctant hero: The bus driver who stayed calm at gun point

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 7:10 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - After a school bus was hijacked with 18 kids on board, law enforcement says one man emerged as a hero: the driver.

Despite remaining calm at gunpoint and putting the safety of his students first, Richland School District Two bus driver Kenneth Corbin shrugs off this new title.

“I would and will defer that title to my kids. They are my heroes,” Corbin said to reporters Friday.

On May 6, Corbin was driving a Richland Two school bus taking students to Forest Lake Elementary NASA Explorer School when an armed soldier-in-training boarded the bus, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

In a video released by the department, Corbin is seen responding to the suspect getting on board by putting his hands in the air.

But rather than get paralyzed with fear, Sheriff Leon Lott said Corbin leaned on the training course he happened to have taken just two weeks prior to the incident.

“He just like went through a checklist in his head and he did it all and he did it perfectly,” Lott said.

Taking a training course on what to do if there is an active shooter and hostage situation on his bus just the day before being hijacked isn’t the only coincidence leading up to Corbin sitting in the driver’s seat that Thursday.

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According to Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis, Corbin started working as a bus driver with the district five years ago, but Corbin had originally thought he was applying to work at a neighboring district.

“Somehow, and he can’t explain it and neither can we, I think it was divine intervention, somehow the lines of communication somehow got crossed and he was applying for a job with Richland School District Two, and we are all better for it,” Davis said.

Prior to working as a bus driver Corbin helped with his son’s dump truck business, debt collection, construction, to name a few

“We are all so glad that on top of all the positions he had he was a bus driver,” Davis said.

Lott and Davis both said Corbin is a quiet, modest man who tends to try and step out of the spotlight.

Corbin said despite having a rifle in his face, that he would later learn was empty, his priority was the safety and security of the kids on board.

“In our safety meetings, we refer to our students as precious cargo that was so evident on May 6th. Our job is to transfer that precious cargo to and from schools in a safe and timely manner,” he said.

But Corbin said the relationship he has with the students he sees every weekday morning and afternoon goes both ways.

“It was my goal to get them out of that incident safe sound I realize it was their goal to do the same by me,” he said.

Sheriff Lott said once they are able to release the full video of the incident, everyone will be able to appreciate how calm and composed Corbin was in those tense moments.

“When he got off the bus it was like a mother hen putting his invisible arms around them protecting them,” Lott said.

State Superintendent Molly Spearman said there are safety training courses for bus drivers across the state, but the extra, yearly courses taken by Richland School District Two drivers like Corbin aren’t offered everywhere at this time.

But now, she wants to see if she can make sure every bus driver in the state is armed with skills Corbin had at a pivotal time.

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