KANAWHA COUNTY, WV (WOWK) – Parents are sending a special thank you to a bus driver who they say saved their children’s lives as they were coming home from school Tuesday afternoon.

“Our kids love him and we love him and appreciate him,” said Jon Casto, a parent of a student on the bus. “We’re just very thankful for him.” 

According to Casto, Cross Lanes Elementary students were being dropped off at their bus stop along Cross Lanes Drive. They were waiting to cross the road when a car drove through the bus’s red lights and stop sign.

Casto said if it wasn’t for the bus driver communicating with the students and telling them to wait, it could have ended very badly.

“He used the hand signals and the kids watched that, obeyed that, and that’s what saved their lives because about the time the car came across, is when they would’ve been coming out in front of the bus had he not had his hand up waiting to let them go through safely,” Casto said.

About 50 yards down the road, Casto said his sister’s friend was killed trying to cross the road. It happened more than three decades ago, but he still remembers it well.

“I tell my kids that story all the time of how quickly it can happen,” he said. “You never think it’s going to and the potential is always there and we saw it yesterday.”

According to Brette Fraley, Director of Transportation for Kanawha County Schools, bus driver hand signals are a standard across the school district to keep students safe getting on and off the bus.

Even though passing a bus when red lights and the stop sign are up is illegal in West Virginia, he said it happens almost every day.

“I mean we’re just one illegal pass away from a child being killed. That’s how serious it is, and we’re lucky so far that it hasn’t happened,” Fraley said. “Just stop for the school buses and the kids. Let them get home and to school safely.”