Jackson Student A Hero For Taking Wheel Of School Bus After Crash

Jackson Memorial High School Junior Evan Vanarsdale receives an award of thanks from School Board member John Burnetsky. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

JACKSON – Mayor Michael Reina described the heroism of Evan Vanarsdale as “an act of courage and quick thinking” when he read a proclamation honoring the youth during a Township Council meeting.

Unfortunately, Vanarsdale was not present to hear the mayor and his commendation of the Jackson Memorial High School junior’s heroism but the young man was present with his parents and friends when a similar honor was bestowed upon him at a school board meeting held earlier that same evening.

For Vanarsdale, it all began during his morning ride to Jackson Memorial High School on a school bus that carried eight other high school students. The bus collided with another vehicle injuring both drivers but left the students unharmed. Both drivers were treated for unspecified injuries.

The crash occurred at 6:40 a.m. Nov. 28 at Toms River Road and Aidan Lane. The 60-year-old bus driver turned into the intersection at Toms River Road and hit a 2017 Nissan, driven by a 47-year-old woman.

The bus driver was reportedly ejected from her seat and Vanarsdale brought the vehicle to a stop.

School Board member John Burnetsky described the incident saying “tonight we have the honor of recognizing a student for his quick thinking and ability to stay calm under pressure.”

“While the bus was drifting, Mr. Vanarsdale had the presence of mind to quickly assess the situation… pull the emergency brake and radio for help – all within just moments of the accident.”

Burnetsky said that “our transportation staff does drills with students to practice this kind of response, but in a crisis, we know that it can be difficult to remember that training.

“This incident shows us that our training works, and that students like Evan are up to the task,” Burnetsky added. He then reportedly attended to the driver.

“Evan your ability to respond so quickly and so maturely in a crisis served us well in this incident and will undoubtedly serve you well in the future,” Burnetsky said at the school board meeting.

Jackson Memorial High School Junior Evan Vanarsdale receives an award of thanks from School Board member John Burnetsky. (Photo by Bob Vosseller)

Vanarsdale, 16, said that time seemed to “slow down” while the accident happened. “I was sitting toward the back of the bus in the fourth row. We were early on in our route to the school and we didn’t have a lot of people. I was a bit tired and half asleep when the accident happened.”

The teenager said that the bus “didn’t yield to the car like we were supposed to and we were on (Route) 571 on our way to school. Our bus driver didn’t have her seat belt on when we hit the car and she flew out of her seat by the doors. I saw what was going on and saw her stuck in the door area. I stopped the bus and radioed in.”

Vanarsdale added that he recalled his training from last year. “We hadn’t had a drill this year yet when the accident happened but I remembered it.”

The teen said that he received a lot of support from friends after the accident. “I got a lot of attention in recent weeks.” He said that his parents were very proud of his quick action the day of the accident. They joined him for the presentation he received from the Board of Education.

Along with his parents he was joined by two friends of his girlfriend for the board meeting. “It was very cool,” Vanarsdale said.

Vanarsdale is looking to become a personal trainer and attend Ocean County College in two years. “A friend of mine has an independent facility that I hope to work at. I want to be a personal trainer and an entrepreneur.”