An Army trainee made his way onto a school bus, pointing a rifle at the driver and taking 18 children hostage. However, it took just a few minutes for the gunman to realize he had commandeered the wrong school bus.
During his morning rounds, South Carolina school bus driver Kenneth Corbin encountered a terrifying situation when an armed man forced his way onto the bus. Jovan Collazo, a 23-year-old Army trainee from New Jersey, aimed a rifle at Corbin’s head and ordered him to drive off with 18 children in tow.
When making their rounds, the primary concern of any good bus driver is the children’s safety. So, when a group of elementary students was met with a dangerous situation, the driver did his best to protect his precious cargo. What he didn’t expect was that the children would be their own best defense.
Fearing not only for his own life but for the innocent children, Corbin did exactly what Collazo said. However, it took less than 6 minutes for the gunman to realize he was no match for a busload of inquisitive elementary students who were just peaking in the grammar stage of learning.
“As we were traveling, I guess he realized there were several students on the bus — kind of scattered throughout,” Corbin said. “He decided to move all the students up front so he could keep us all in close proximity, and when he did that, especially some of my kindergarteners, they started asking questions.”
Corbin told Good Morning America that the curious children began inundating Collazo with questions, which proved to be both a distraction and annoyance too torturous for the gunman. He says the hijacker attempted to answer the relentless inquiries but quickly began to wear down and become visibly frustrated. Within just 6 minutes, Collazo decided he couldn’t take anymore and forced Corbin to pull over and exit the bus with all 18 children.
“The kids were the ones that actually got the gentleman off of the bus and they pretty much had my back as much as my concerns were with them,” Corbin explained. “At the end when they started questioning him, it seemed to have frustrated him because his main objective were to get to the next town, but I think we were only on the road about four miles and he just got frustrated with the questions and just told me to stop the bus and get off. All y’all get off now.”
Corbin says the children posed various questions, including asking Collazo if he was a soldier and if he was going to hurt them. Collazo apparently grew overwhelmed and gave up answering them after a few minutes of interrogation.
“They asked him, ‘why are you doing this?’ He never did have an answer for this one. They asked, was he going to hurt them? He said ‘no.’ They asked, ‘are you going to hurt our bus driver?’ He said, ‘no. I’m going to put you off the bus,'” Corbin recalled. “He sensed more questions coming and I guess something clicked in his mind and he said, ‘enough is enough already,’ and he told me to ‘stop the bus, and just get off.'”
Corbin explained that Collazo’s “main objective was to get to the next town” and that he repeatedly asked how long it would take to get there. Investigators believe that Collazo was trying to get home in the middle of his third week of training at Fort Jackson when he seized the bus.
“He told me to speed up and don’t let the red light catch me,” Corbin said, “that’s when he moved the kids up front and then he wanted to know, again, ‘how far,’ and all I could say was ’20 miles because we haven’t gone that far.'”
After traveling just 4 miles, Collazo forced Corbin to pull over and get off the bus with all the children. He then drove away by himself before abandoning the bus on the side of the road sometime later. A witness told WIS-TV that none of the children were crying and that the older students were consoling the younger ones.
Corbin said “it was so evident that they were precious cargo and I pretty much just had to just do whatever — to get them off the bus safe and sound.”
Fort Jackson officials confirmed that Collazo’s rifle would have been unloaded as he didn’t have access to any ammunition while in training. The base issued an apology for “a failure in accountability procedures,” but didn’t comment further.
Corbin is relieved that the children are all safe and is able to laugh off the experience now that it’s all over. However, he acknowledges that things could’ve been much worse.
The bus driver has been hailed a hero for remaining calm and doing everything within his power to protect the children in his care. Still, he accredits the outcome to the children and their insatiable curiosity.