12-year-old student helps save Conn. bus driver’s life

PRESTON, Conn. (WFSB/CNN) – A school bus driver in Connecticut can thank a 12-year-old girl for helping to save his life.

A 12-year-old girl helped save a school bus driver's life in Connecticut. (Source: WFSB/CNN)

The driver had a medical emergency behind the wheel, but one quick-thinking seventh grader took charge and got help there fast.

Ava Boenig was on her morning bus ride last Thursday to Preston Plains School when bus driver Randy Centeno suddenly pulled over.

"He stopped the bus. It wasn't at anybody's stop,” Ava said. “He was screaming in pain, 'Help me, help me, somebody call 911!’”

So Ava grabbed her cellphone and dialed 911.

"She remained actually very calm throughout the whole call,” said Paula Smith, the 911 dispatcher. “She did a really good job. You could hear background noise of the upset students and the bus driver obviously in distress."

A veteran dispatcher for the town for nearly 25 years, Smith focused on getting critical details from Ava.

“Are they able to talk to you?” Smith asked Ava during the 911 call.

“No,” Ava answered.

“OK, so is the driver unconscious?” Smith asked.

“His chest is really tight,” Ava said.

Ava later said she doesn’t know what inspired her to take charge.

"I don't know, just an urge inside of me," she said.

Smith said Ava was able to describe her exact location. Minutes later, another bus driver trained as an EMT and Preston Fire Chief Tom Casey arrived to help Centeno.

“I'm so proud," said Ava’s mother Becky Boenig, who’s a nurse and a former school bus driver herself.

As for Ava, someday she wants to be a state trooper and help people.

She had some advice for people dealing with emergency situations: “Take charge, don’t fight about anything and just do what you need to do and stay calm."

The driver is now recovering, and he’s grateful to Ava for her help.

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