11-year-old Mahwah student alerts driver to school bus fire

Posted: Updated:

A quick-thinking 11-year-old Mahwah student helped to prevent a disaster by alerting his school bus driver that the vehicle was on fire.

Mahwah fire officials say that fifth-grader Rocco Arcese smelled smoke when he boarded the bus around 9 a.m. Tuesday.

“I've smelled burning rubber before.  Because I have quads and a dirt bike so I just knew,” he says.

Arcese says that the driver did not notice anything at first, so he says he went to his usual seat in the back of the bus.

"We got over to where the baseball field is and then the engine just turned off and the front of the bus was on fire, you could see the smoke,” Arcese says. “I was like, ‘We should get off,’ and [the driver] was like ‘Yeah I'm packing up.’”

Arcese says that he did not panic and stayed calm as he evacuated the bus.

"I don't know why I stayed that calm. I shouldn't have. I didn't freak out. I don't know why,” he says.

Councilman Robert Hermansen was driving behind the bus, and he saw smoke as well.  He says once Arcese and the bus driver got out, the bus quickly became engulfed in flames.

"You could hear the windows popping from the fire,” Hermansen says.

The councilman says that Arcese’s quick-thinking helped to avert a larger problem. He says that if the bus had stopped to pick up more students there could have been injuries.

Arcese’s mother say that he has always been a cool and collected kid. She says that she is very proud of him.

“Super proud.  Rocco is an awesome boy,” she says.

Hermansen says he wants to bring the boy in front of the entire council so they can honor his bravery.

sorry to interrupt
your first 20 are free
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please enjoy 20 complimentary views of articles, photos, and videos during the next 30 days.
you have reached your 20 view limit
Access to News 12 is free for Optimum, Comcast®, Spectrum Networks® and Service ElectricSM customers.
Please login or create an account to continue enjoying News12.
Our sign-up page is undergoing maintenance and is not currently available. However, you will be given direct access to news12.com while we complete our upgrade.
When we are back up and running you will be prompted at that time to complete your sign in. Until then, enjoy the local news, weather, traffic and more that's "as local as local news gets."