An Xpress bus driver who had a medical emergency behind the wheel of his bus Wednesday morning has died, but passengers saw what was happening and leapt into action to avert a possible collision.
James Atkinson, 52, was driving a route covering the Conyers and Panola Road areas of DeKalb County when he went into “medical distress,” Transdev communications manager Scott Hagen said in a statement. Transdev operates Xpress Transit Service.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with the family, his fellow operators and the entire SRTA and Transdev teams,” Chris Tomlinson, SRTA executive director said. “We ask that everyone respect the privacy of Mr. Atkinson’s family and keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this very difficult time.”
While driving, Atkinson began losing consciousness and the bus began to swerve into a tractor-trailer, Channel 2 Action News reported.
“One of the passengers in front, she just started screaming ‘Wake up, wake up!” passenger Frederick Huff told the news station.
Huff pulled Atkinson from behind the wheel and began steering while others administered CPR on Atkinson and called 911.
“I just happened to get into the seat in time to maneuver the bus out of that collision,” Huff said. “It could have been a different story.”
Atkinson had been with Xpress since 2010. Xpress bus services covers several counties in the metro area.
“James was well known and well liked because of his personality and his dedication to the job. He will be missed.” Ed Overn, regional vice president for Transdev, said. He also thanked the passengers who tried to save Atkinson.
Grief counselors will be provided to staff by SRTA and Transdev.
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