COLUMBIA, S.C. — The little children and the bus driver who were kidnapped during a school bus hijacking in Columbia Thursday have had a chance to reunite, school district officials confirmed.
Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis confirmed the driver and students met as the students were getting ready to get on their bus to go home Friday afternoon.
"The bus driver did ask specifically how the students were doing and the children were asking how was the bus driver and it's something that warms our hearts," Davis said of the effort to reunited the groups.
The Richland School District Two School Board held a special meeting Friday to talk about bus safety in the wake of the hijacking of one of their buses that was headed to Forest Lake Elementary School. The board met in executive session, which is behind closed doors, and they didn't say afterward specifically what they addressed during that time.
They did, however, once again praise the bus driver in the incident. The students were at a bus stop on Percival Road Thursday morning when Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said an Army recruit at Fort Jackson approached them. Once the 18 students got on board, the sheriff said the suspect ran up the bus's steps and pointed his unloaded military rifle in the face of the driver. Lott said he also pointed the weapon at the students.
Lott released a surveillance video showing some of the encounter, and called the driver a hero. (The district said all buses have these recording devices).
Richland Two Superintendent Dr. Baron Davis once again praised the driver, who followed his crisis training that every driver goes through. He said he remained calm throughout the ordeal.
A witness who stopped and helped after the incident also said she saw the driver comfort the students and keep them together until help arrived.
While most of the students returned to school Friday, the driver did not go on his route Friday, Davis said. The superintendent said the driver is receiving counseling as are the students. But he said both students and driver really wanted to see each other again.
"Part of the reunification process after a crisis event is reconciliation and so we gave the bus driver and students an opportunity to reconcile to see one another," Davis said.
It's unclear when the driver may return to his job. "Right now we just want to take care of him," Davis said.
An administrator has been assigned to ride the bus for now along with the students.