BENTON COUNTY, Miss. (WMC) - The driver of a Mississippi school bus is believed to have suffered a cardiac event before the bus crashed Tuesday morning in Benton County.
William “Chester” Cole, 63, was pronounced dead at the scene. Eight children were injured in the crash, including Cole’s granddaughter who was also a passenger, according to his family.
Benton County Coroner Larry Hobson says there won’t be an autopsy. He says Cole reportedly clutched his chest and slumped over in the seat prior to the crash, leading them to believe he had a heart attack.
Cole’s family says his granddaughter saw him clutch his chest. She was injured in the crash and taken to the hospital but is expected to be OK.
“Man, he was beyond awesome,” said Shanneth Walls, Cole’s stepson. “Never took from anybody. Earned every grain.”
Walls says his stepfather was a hard worker and took pride in taking Benton County children to school and dropping them off.
“He loved it. He would get up and warm the school bus, get it nice and toasty for the kids,” Walls said. “He kept the bus clean, swept that bus, everything.”
District officials also sang Cole’s praises.
“Chester has been driving for about five years now, and he’s one of the most dependable drivers we have in the district,” said Steve Bostick, Benton County Schools Superintendent.
Cole had just started his morning pickups when the accident happened, so the bus was not full of students.
Walls and other loved ones shared their memories of COle with WMC Action News 5 Tuesday on the family’s property in Ashland. They said he was a kind man who leaves behind eight grandchildren, as well as all the other young hearts he encountered during the school year.
“Man, he loved those kids,” said Walls.
Funeral arrangements are not yet complete for Cole. His family says he was active in the community, delivering meals to home-bound seniors in northeast Mississippi.