School bus carrying 27 kids plunges into water

TAMPA — As the school bus loaded with 27 elementary school kids overturned and plunged into the water Thursday afternoon, 10-year-old Nicholas Sierra thought of one thing:

His job.

As other kids scrambled crying and screaming from the bus, the Mary E. Bryant Elementary School safety patroller grabbed a kindergartner. Her arms were wrapped tightly around Nicholas’ neck as he climbed out of the bus and took her to safe, dry land.

Then the fifth-grader went back into the half-submerged bus and came out with two more kids, a first- and second-grader.

“It wouldn’t be fair if they died and I lived,” said Nicholas afterward, still wearing his damp, electric-lime fluorescent safety patrol belt.

Thanks to the safety patroller’s heroics and some good fortune, none of the 27 schoolchildren were seriously hurt when their 21-year-old Hillsborough County school bus veered off Nine Eagles Drive, crashed and overturned into a 4-foot deep pond, authorities said.

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