Polk County staff, school officials, fire departments, and local businesses showed an extraordinary willingness to help others last week after a bus filled with 50 people broke down on I-26.
The bus, according to a Facebook post, was on its way back to Ohio on Friday, May 20, after a trip to the South Carolina coast and became disabled at mile marker 64 at around 8 p.m.
The Columbus and Saluda Fire Departments responded to the scene to assist the bus, which was mostly filled with senior citizens. The 911 call center made Polk County Emergency Management Director Bobby Arledge aware of the situation and he began to make calls.
“When the fire department arrived on scene they found that the bus had overheated and fluids were coming from the engine area of the vehicle,” Arledge said. “The fire department requested that Polk EMS be dispatched to evaluate some of the passengers and all passengers were determined to be ok.”
County representatives were told that another bus would come to pick up passengers, but no timetable was set.
So Arledge contacted Polk County Schools Transportation Director Lambert Ridings and Superintendent Aaron Greene to see if a bus was available in order to move the stranded passengers off the highway. They agreed and bus driver Tina Muse soon had a bus on the scene to transfer the stranded tourists.
Then Polk County Health and Human Services (“HHSA”) Director Josh Kennedy was contacted and he agreed to open the Polk County Senior Center for the stranded passengers until the replacement bus arrived. HHSA team member Calan Halford arrived at the Senior Center to assist.
Arledge then contacted the Tryon International Equestrian Center to see if they could assist with food and water for the group. Workers at the Equestrian Center gathered food and water and Arledge picked it up and took it to the Senior Center where he and Halford set out the food and water.
The Columbus Fire Department escorted the bus to the Senior Center and made sure everyone arrived safely.
The replacement bus arrived at almost 11 p.m. and the county staff and members of the Columbus Fire Department assisted the passengers onto the new bus and helped load their luggage.
“This group was extremely appreciative of the efforts we made to keep them safe and provide them with food and water,” Arledge said.