‘Right place, right time’: Bus driver, students pull man from house fire in White Oak

WAFF 48s Aria Pons Reporting
Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 7:40 PM CDT
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WHITE OAK, Ala. (WAFF) - A substitute bus driver was on her regular route when she pulled over to help a man get away from his burning home.

“As we are coming up over the first knoll there, we see smoke,” Landers said.

Landers says she followed the smoke and sprang into action when she saw 78-year-old Russell Marler on the ground. She saw he had fallen out of his motorized wheelchair. She immediately jumped off the bus and ran towards the burning carport.

“He had fallen there and he was trying to get out, so I pulled it to here,” she said, pointing toward the ruined building.

Landers began dragging Marler as far as she could but she kept losing her grip.

“And I said I can’t pull you any farther but you’re not going to die,” Landers said.

Thankfully, she was not alone. Two students ran off the bus when they saw her struggling to drag Marler.

“He’s got this look on his face and he says Ms. Landers, I’ll help you,” Landers recalled. “He gets one arm and I look in the other direction and there’s Joshua and he pulls the other arm and pulls him to the middle of the yard.”

The students James Reed and Joshua Ledlow said they did not think at all. They just acted on instinct.

“Just jumped in and pulled him away,” Ledlow said.

Ledlow said he was only a little scared but he was more worried for the man and his bus driver.

“In the moment, it was should I stay or should I go help,” Reed said. “But before I knew it, my legs were moving before I was. I remember Ms. Chrys had just yelled for somebody to come help and I was already past her picking that old man up.”

At the right place, at the right time. The trio are all very humble when it comes to their acts but the community has deemed them heroes.

“My brother said I’m a superhero, just like superman,” Ledlow said.

Landers said she has kept in touch with Marler’s niece and he is doing well. Officials said he was airlifted to the University of Alabama at Birmingham Burn Unit where he remains.

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