School Bus Driver Dies After Students Steer Bus to Safety During Medical Emergency

Arthur McDougall suffered a catastrophic medical event while driving 14 kids to school on Monday morning, with multiple students leaping into action to help stop the bus and administer first aid

Topsham Police Department
Photo: AP/Shutterstock

Arthur McDougall, a school bus driver in the small town of Topsham, Maine, died shortly after experiencing a medical event behind the wheel on Monday. He was 77.

"It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that Arthur McDougall, our bus driver who was transported to the hospital this morning, has passed away," Maine School Administrative District 75 interim Superintendent Bob Lucy wrote on Facebook on Monday.

"We offer our deepest condolences to Arthur's family, friends, and colleagues. This is very difficult news to share and process," Lucy continued. "We will have counselors available to support all students and staff in our schools and District buildings tomorrow and in the upcoming days."

The Topsham Police Department also issued a statement about McDougall's death in a news release posted to Facebook early morning on Tuesday.

"Diane McDougall asked that we pass along her thanks to all of the students, citizens, and first responders who attempted to save her husband's life yesterday. She stated it was overwhelming to hear of the efforts taken by those involved," Topsham Police wrote.

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PEOPLE's requests for additional comment from the Topsham Police Department and MSAD 75 Superintendent Lucy were not immediately returned.

According to a separate news release issued on Monday by Topsham Police, McDougall suffered a medical event "that left him incapacitated" behind the wheel around 7:30 a.m. that day.

Fourteen middle and high school students were on board at the time of the incident, and students' quick thinking helped bring the bus to a stop as it approached the Cathance River Bridge while going east on Route 201, police wrote.

Brothers Rufus and Chhaya Hinkley were in the back of the bus when the incident happened, according to local news outlet Fox23.

"I saw someone run up and grab the wheel and hit the brake on the bus," Rufus told Fox23, adding, "And we kind of were, like, off the road."

"I think that it was great that they acted so quickly and tried to get help so fast," added Chhaya.

Another student on the bus attempted to administer first aid, per local station WSAZ, and a passerby had helped put the bus in park, according to WMTW.

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When Topsham Police arrived on scene, they administered CPR while using an automated external defibrillator on McDougall. He was initially transported to Mid Coast Hospital, then Life Flighted to Maine Medical Center in Portland, according to the Topsham Police Department's initial news release.

McDougall is survived by his sister Jo; his wife and "soulmate" Diane; and his three children, Arthur, Matthew, and Pamela, according to a tribute posted to Jo's Facebook on Tuesday.

The bus driver served in the U.S. Air Force for four years, and worked for Bath Iron Works for 36 years before retiring in 2007, according to his sister's heartfelt tribute.

McDougall also liked to play golf, go for walks, go fishing with friends, and travel. He also "loved to create things with his hands from beautiful paintings and wood work," and "will be dearly missed and remembered as a gentle, kind and thoughtful man," per Jo's post.

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