'In our safety meetings, we refer to our students as precious cargo,' the hero driver said. 'Our job and goal are to transport that precious cargo to and from school in a safe and timely manner.'
Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 18, 2021. It has since been updated.
School bus driver Kenneth Corbin was honored as a hero by local South Carolina officials for keeping his cool during an armed hijacking on May 6, 2021. However, Corbin insists he was simply doing his job and that the real heroes are the 18 children who were on board the bus during the high-pressure encounter. According to ABC News, Corbin—who has been driving school buses for Richland School District Two for the last few years—was on his normal bus route on the day of the incident when a man ran onto the bus, pointed a rifle at him and ordered him to drive to the next town.
Kenneth Corbin was lauded for keeping his cool after an Army trainee boarded a bus with a rifle and ordered him at gunpoint to drive. https://t.co/2gGo3xFVd5— The State Newspaper (@thestate) May 14, 2021
Police believe the hijacker, a 23-year-old Army trainee named Jovan Collazo who was in his third week at Fort Jackson, was trying to get home to New Jersey. Speaking to Good Morning America, Corbin revealed that he initially pushed his hands out to signify to the man that he was not allowed on the bus. "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," he said. "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, you know, rile him to cause him to do something that would bring harm to the kids."
Superintendent @Molly_Spearman joined officials from @RichlandTwo to recognize bus driver Kenneth Corbin for his heroic efforts that kept students aboard his bus safe and out of harms way during an armed hijacking. pic.twitter.com/6AK2twJkXl— S.C. Department of Education (@EducationSC) May 14, 2021
"As we were traveling, I guess he realized there were several students on the bus -- kind of scattered throughout," Corbin, who was trained to handle a hostage situation, added. "He decided to move all the students up front so he could keep us all in close proximity, and when he did that, especially some of my kindergarteners, they started asking questions." The students, he said, asked if the man was a soldier, to which he "hesitantly answered 'yes.'"
A Richland Two school bus driver is being hailed a hero. The Midlands bus driver was on his morning route last week, when the bus full of students was hijacked. Kenneth Corbin was honored for his bravery in a ceremony held Friday afternoon. https://t.co/VHNKIqlbNm pic.twitter.com/Vxi2tVhskh— ABC Columbia (@abc_columbia) May 15, 2021
"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 recounted. "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 kids were the ones that actually got the gentleman off of the bus and they pretty much had my back as much as my concerns were with them," he added. "At the end when they started questioning him, it seemed to have frustrated him because his main objective were to get to the next town, but I think we were only on the road about four miles and he just got frustrated with the questions and just told me to stop the bus and get off. All y'all get off now." Collazo later abandoned the bus and was arrested. He has been charged with 19 counts of kidnapping, among other charges.
Corbin was recognized for his heroic efforts at a ceremony on May 14, 2021, where he was presented an S.C. Senate resolution by Democratic state Sen. Mia McLeod of Richland County and letters of appreciation from students in all 50 states, reports The State. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott described Corbin as the picture of calm during the hijacking incident. "He kept his cool," he said. "He did not get excited. He did not get upset or get scared. He kept his voice at the same level. His mannerisms were the same and he did not overreact. You can tell the training he had kicked in and he was worried about those kids. He was in complete control, even though the guy was pointing a gun at him and giving him directions and stuff."
When Corbin and the children got off the bus, he kept them close to him until authorities arrived, "almost like a mother hen with her chickens," the sheriff added. Meanwhile, Corbin thanked law enforcement and God at the event and said that the children were at the top of his mind. "In our safety meetings, we refer to our students as precious cargo," he said. "That was so evident on May 6. Our job and goal are to transport that precious cargo to and from school in a safe and timely manner. On May 6, it was very crucial that I perform my job to the highest degree possible. I emphasized to our parents that our drivers take that responsibility seriously."