Rachelle Kaas was heading south on Hwy. 115 Saturday, June 30 when she noticed a crack in the bottom of the windshield.
Kaas, a veteran GO Transit bus driver with almost 17 years at the wheel, had just left the Millbrook/Cavan GO carpool lot in Peterborough with a bus load of passengers. She was driving her double-decker bus to Oshawa when things quickly took a turn for the worse.
“It spidered up,” Kaas said of the crack’s path. “It then went across the whole windshield, from one side to the other. And then the windshield caved in.”
Shattered glass sprayed into her hair, and she instinctively closed her eyes as pieces covered her face, her hands firmly gripped on the wheel.
“One passenger ran up and I told him I couldn’t see, could he help me,” she recalled. “I know that highway well, and it’s a straight part. I put the four-ways on and he helped guide me to the shoulder and helped me put the brake on. I never did get his name.”
Paramedics called to the scene flushed out Kaas’ eyes and wanted to transport her to hospital, but Kaas made sure her passengers were taken care of before she agreed to go.
“I couldn’t just leave my passengers on the side of the road,” she said, adding she waited until OPP officers who arrived on scene promised her they would stay until passengers were moved to another bus.
Taylor Searl praised Kaas’ heroic actions in an email “…the (woman) driving that bus is an absolute hero,” the grateful rider said. “Thanks to her no one on the bus was injured and what could have ended in a horrible bus tragedy did not.”
An investigation by GO Transit indicated an outside object made contact with the windshield, causing it to crack and collapse. The windshield was replaced and the bus was placed back in service.
“We are truly proud of Rachelle’s character and conduct,” said Laurie Stratton, senior manager for GO Transit bus operations. “Rachelle demonstrated calm under pressure, using her professional experience and training to ensure that the safety of her customers and the public were her first priority.”
An assessment at the hospital revealed Kaas escaped injury, and days later she was back behind the wheel.
“I really enjoy my job and my passengers,” she said. “I like being helpful.”