Buffalo bus driver rescues suicidal young woman from bridge overpass

Nadine Kalinauskas

A Buffalo bus driver is being credited with saving a woman's life.

On Friday, October 18, 37-year-old Darnell Barton was driving his Elmwood 20 bus southbound toward Buffalo State College when he spotted a young woman standing on a narrow ledge outside the railing over the Scajaquada Expressway. She looked like she was about to jump into traffic.

He pulled up beside her, opened the bus doors and shouted at her, asking if she was okay.

She didn't answer.

He heard one of the students on the bus — he had just picked up 20 teenagers from a nearby high school — crying, "I don't want to see someone die."

So Barton, a father of two, got out of the bus and approached the woman.

"She was distraught, she was distant, she was really disconnected. I grabbed her arm and put my arm around her and said, 'Do you want to come on this side of the guardrail?' and that was actually the first time she spoke to me she said yes." he told WIVB.

Barton was able to lift her over the railing and onto the sidewalk. He sat on the sidewalk with her and talked for a few minutes until a corrections officer and crisis counsellor joined them.

"I said, 'Whatever it is, it might feel bad, it may feel bad, but jumping is not the answer,'" Barton said.

"While I was holding her, listening to their questions, I just prayed," the bus driver told the Associated Press. "Whatever was on her mind, it had her. It really, really had her."

An ambulance arrived soon after.

"Knowing that I saved somebody's life, it makes me feel good, being at the right place at the right time," Barton told TODAY.

"I feel like I did what I was supposed to do at the time. I'm a football guy so when you sit the bench and the coach calls your number, you gotta go in there make a play, do what the play calls for, and I think that's what I did," Barton told WIVB.

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When he returned to the bus, Barton's young passengers gave him a round of applause.

"As each of them got off the bus, they shook my hand," he told Buffalo News.

After Barton had given a statement to authorities, he continued to work until the end of his shift. Because of the bus driver's modesty, the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority (NFTA) only recently learned of his heroic actions.

"Being the humble individual that Darnell is, he didn't write it in a way that was going to call attention to himself," said C. Douglas Hartmayer, spokesman for the NFTA.

"It was: I did it, got back on my bus and continued. That speaks volumes about his demeanor and character."

"We are all extremely proud of Darnell’s heroic actions," said Kimberley A. Minkel, the NFTA's executive director. "His quick and calm response during a very stressful situation speaks volumes about his character and unwavering willingness to help someone in need."

Barton told the Associated Press that he hopes to speak to the woman again to make sure she's okay.

"Things like this put what's important in perspective," he said. "You hug your kids a little tighter, kiss your wife a little bit longer. You're grateful."

"Things may not be perfect, but as we say, they're a little bit of all right."