The crash happened around 6:30 a.m. where Ligon Mill Road and Horse Shoe Farm Road meet near Hwy 401.
There were seven students on board bus number 956 headed to Southeast Raleigh High School and Centennial Campus. None of the students were injured.
Investigators say Lt. Harry "Flip" Kissinger was in the pickup. He had taken off from work early to take his children to school.
The force of the impact pinned Kissinger in the truck.
"I think it was like 6:28 and I heard a big crash, it sounded like a plane crash really," eyewitness 16-year-old Jason Stutts said."I ran downstairs and I saw some lights out here, they were stationary so I knew there was a crash."
Stutts says he ran to help and was working alongside other first responders trying to help.
"Where the bus had hit him dead on, the whole dashboard and steering wheel looked like it was up in his chest," Stutts said.
He said he spent at least half an hour holding a flashlight as emergency crews struggled to get Kissinger out of his truck. It took fellow firefighters 45 minutes to cut him free.
Kissinger was in critical condition with serious head injuries at WakeMed. A City of Raleigh spokesperson said his family and fellow firefighters were gathered at the hospital with him.
Kissinger joined the City of Raleigh Fire Department in 1997. He is currently assigned to Fire Station 6 on Fairview Road. He married with two daughters.
The other two drivers involved in the accident have been treated and released from the hospital.
There is no word on whether any charges will be filed against any of the drivers.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.