Coast Guard hockey players, including Knoch grad, intervene to avert Conn. bus disaster
The U.S. Coast Guard Academy hockey team was unwinding from a game against the Merchant Marine Academy during the late-night, two-hour bus ride back to their school. Suddenly, their bus began to swerve on Interstate 95 in Connecticut.
The bus driver had lost consciousness and his foot was still on the accelerator.
Ben Lesniak, a 2011 Knoch High School graduate, and two of his teammates, Mike Rossi and Alex Mead, who were sitting at the front of the bus, jumped into action to get the vehicle under control and call 911.
“(Mead) grabbed the wheel and pried the driver's hands off,” said Lesniak, 21. “I told my teammate (Rossi) to grab the guy's feet and I would grab the wheel from the side while they moved him.
“Then I jumped over the both of them into the seat.”
Lesniak said he was able to bring the bus to a stop. But he had to sit with his foot on the brake until emergency responders arrived because no one was sure how to put the commercial coach bus into park or turn it off.
Meanwhile, other cadets carried the bus driver to the side of the road where they administered first aid.
“The whole process took about five minutes,” Lesniak said.
But it wasn't without its risks.
Lesniak said that at one point the bus swerved within 6 inches of the concrete median.
Lesniak, Rossi, Mead and their team trainer, Travis Fender, a health services technician, were awarded Coast Guard commendation medals at a Feb. 13 ceremony. The incident happened near midnight Feb. 8.
“The cadets courageously intervened in a crisis situation to prevent a potential disaster,” Rear Adm. Sandra Stosz said in an emailed statement.
“Their actions exemplify the leadership qualities the Academy instills in all who come through its gates. We are immensely proud of all those involved in the response.”
Lesniak said the driver was conscious and talking when emergency responders loaded him into the ambulance.
He's heard that the man was hospitalized for observation, but is doing well.
Lesniak, a Penn Township, Butler County native, said he believes that any of his fellow cadets would have responded the same way he did.
“That's the mentality with everyone,” he said.
It just happens that he's usually at the front of the bus because it takes him so long to remove his goalie pads after a game.
Mike King, Lesniak's former football coach at Knoch, said the young man's actions don't surprise him.
“When I heard about it I thought, that makes perfect sense to me,” said King, who is South Butler School District's athletic director.
“He never, ever did anything except above and beyond what was expected of him.”
Lesniak said he applied to the Coast Guard Academy at King's suggestion. He was interested in the military, but felt his goals didn't match up with the missions of the other branches.
“I always thought it would be a good thing to serve the country,” he said. “I really loved the (Coast Guard) mission and that you have a direct influence on the people you serve.”
Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Two charged with selling heroin that killed Lower Burrell woman
- Snow sculptors have a ball with Iceburgh, Einstein
- Student suicide brings issue of bullying to fore in New Kensington-Arnold
- Harrison mom, boyfriend charged in abuse of young boys
- Apollo targets owners who fail to maintain vacant properties
- Drivers survive head-on crash on Route 356 in Allegheny Township
- Leechburg man charged with molesting girls, watching child pornography
- Mia Z (Zanotti) of Hyde Park advances on NBC’s ‘The Voice’
- Brackenridge nonprofit organization dreams BIG
- Springdale Township standoff ends peacefully
- Teenage suspect in Leechburg killing held for trial