Day of thanks, hugs for alert driver in Fayetteville school bus fire

FAYETTEVILLE (WTVD) -- A bus driver from Fayetteville's 71st Classical Middle School is being praised as a hero for saving herself and 15 students from a burning bus she was driving Wednesday afternoon.

Vaster Robinson had already made several stops when she noticed smoke coming from the rear of the bus. Her quick thinking kicked in, and she escorted all of the students off the bus to a nearby Food Lion parking lot. While waiting for another bus to arrive to pick up the students, their school bus became engulfed in flames.

Robinson said some students began to panic and started crying.

ABC11 Eyewitness photo

"I thought oh my God! Thank you for letting me get these kids off the bus right on time," she recalled Thursday in an exclusive interview with ABC11.

Robinson has been driving school buses for Cumberland County for two decades. In addition to driving for 71st Classical Middle School, she also serves as a cashier in the school's cafeteria, among other things.

She said students have been thanking her all day and giving her hugs; not only for her heroic deed, but for keeping other classmates safe.

RELATED: Students get off safely before school bus becomes engulfed in flames

Even the Superintendent for Cumberland County Schools paid Robinson a visit on Wednesday to show appreciation.

"Today was my day, and I felt very special," she said. "I felt very special."

Dianne Grumelot, director of Transportation Services, for Cumberland County Schools said 71st Classical Middle School recently turned in their safety and training documents.

I'm really glad they did," Grumelot did. "And we are so glad nobody was hurt."

"That training for me was wonderful," Robinson said. "I really could have started panicking myself and forgot all about the kids. But I thank God I didn't."

A rear view of the burned school bus.

ABC11 Eyewitness photo

While Robinson's students were waiting for another bus, a nearby Subway restaurant invited them inside and baked them cookies and offered drinks.

Robinson said she's grateful to Subway for helping the students while they waited.

When asked about the praise she's received, Robinson said, "I just give it all to the Lord ... I don't feel like a hero. I really don't.

"I was just doing my job," she added.

There is no word yet on why the bus caught fire. Investigators will examine the Freightliner again on Friday.

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