Gallatin teen risks life to save 45 students after bus catches fire

Isiah Neal

GALLATIN, Tenn. (WKRN) – A teenager risked his life last week to save dozens of students from a burning bus on Highway 109 in Gallatin.

Unlike most kids his age, Isiah Neal always puts others first.

The 15-year-old is spending part of his spring break from Gallatin High School volunteering at the Sumner County Food Bank.

“It’s a good feeling that you’ll get when you see other people happy and smiling,” he told News 2.

Isiah Neal

Last week, he was aboard a school bus on Highway 109 when the engine caught fire.

The bus driver jumped off, looking for the fire extinguisher.

“There was just a black cloud of smoke right up there on the front of the bus, and next thing I know everybody was yelling and screaming,” Neal said.

Before the bus even stopped, the 15-year-old was able to open the emergency exit door.

When the driver stopped, Neal risked his own life and stayed on the bus until every student was off safely.

“There was diesel gas coming from the bottom of the bus, the engine was catching on fire. I’m just surprised it didn’t explode,” he told News 2.

Neal’s mother also volunteers in the prayer room at the food bank. She received a call from her son saying “I love you” and letting her know the bus was on fire.

“My heart stopped. I just went into mom-mode and just getting to the scene as soon as I could,” said Tonya Rosales.

She was relieved that everyone on the bus was okay, thanks to her son.

“That’s the type of kid he is, putting people in front of him,” Rosales told News 2.

Tonya Rosales (Photo: WKRN)

Forty-five students were on the bus, mostly middle school age and four high school students, including Neal.

Some are now calling him a hero.

“A true hero is normal people doing abnormal things. You were the one in that bus that made an abnormal move and saved 45 lives,” said Dr. James Gill, Executive Director of the Sumner County Food Bank.

But hero is a title Neal refuses to accept.

“I really don’t consider myself as a hero. I’m just thankful that everybody got out safe and no one got seriously injured,” he said.

Neal told News 2 he wasn’t even supposed to be on the bus at the time it caught fire. The bus picks up students on three different routes in his neighborhood, and Neal usually gets picked up last but he got on the second route that day.