Counselor Saves Campers’ Lives During Bridge Collapse

Jeremy Hernandez's story proves that everyday people can perform extraordinary acts of courage.

At first, nothing seemed out of the ordinary on the ride home from a day camp trip to a Minneapolis, Minn. water park. Many of the young campers had been lulled to sleep by the rumble of the bus’ wheels. Others were quietly sharing stories of the day’s adventures, singing songs, or simply watching through the window as the bus rolled across the Mississippi River.

Then a sudden jolt: The passengers flew through the air as the bus began a steep descent, finally coming to rest precariously close to the river — unthinkably, the bridge had collapsed beneath them. Cars were tumbling into the water, and the bus was creeping forward, sure to drop at any moment.

Fortunately, there was a hero on board that day: Jeremy Hernandez, a 20-year-old camp counselor. As soon as he realized what had happened, Hernandez sprung into action, jumping two rows of seats to kick open the emergency exit at the back of the bus.

“I just acted,” Hernandez told The New York Times. “I just moved. My feet were just moving. My body was following.”

Hernandez helped the 61 other campers and counselors safely exit the bus, even as the vehicle was edging closer and closer to the crack in the bridge. He couldn’t tell if he’d have time to help all of the passengers, and knew that he may well sacrifice his own life during the massive rescue effort.

Luckily, everyone made it off the bridge relatively unscathed, Hernandez included. The entire group reassembled at camp the next day, full of tearful hugs, grateful to be alive.

“Five seconds, 10 seconds earlier, they would’ve been in the river,  ” said Anthony Wagner, president of the nonprofit organization that runs the children’s camp. “I think a miracle happened.”

Our condolences go out to the victims of this terrible tragedy.