TriMet Operator “does what anyone should do”

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Saves toddler perilously close to busy street

TriMet bus operator Bill Clark says he’s no hero; that he did what anyone should do when he spotted a toddler in the middle of the road heading for a busy intersection.

Operator Clark was driving a Line 20 bus westbound on northeast Division Street in Gresham about 8:15 a.m. on Friday morning, May 23, when he saw a small child walking in the middle of Linden Avenue and heading straight for Division. Video from the bus captured just how perilously close the boy was to the busy street.

Clark quickly stopped the bus and went out to check on the boy, who was barefoot in only a diaper and t-shirt. Clark did not see a parent or anyone else with the boy so, as the video shows, he took the boy’s hand, walked him to the bus and lifted him inside.

The boy quickly went to a front seat and climbed up. Clark contacted TriMet’s Operation Command Center. Since the bus was blocking the street, he was instructed to go to the Gresham Central Transit Center just a few blocks away where police met him.

While waiting for police to arrive, Operator Clark tried talking with the boy, but the boy didn’t respond much until Clark hit on the age-defying word for yummy. “I asked him if he wanted some hot chocolate, and when I said chocolate, he lit up and said ‘chocolate!’” said Clark.

Video shows Clark handing the boy a cup of hot chocolate, which he tested first to make sure it wasn’t too hot, and oatmeal raisin cookies to bide time until workers with the Department of Human Services (DHS) showed up. A short time later, a child was reported missing from the Linden Place Apartments. The boy, 2-year-old James, had wandered away from his apartment as his father, who had worked a late shift, slept. Read the Gresham Police news release about the incident.

DHS workers returned James to his parents and instructed them to install child locks to keep James from getting out again.

Transit Police Officer Craig Wellhouser contacted Operator Clark to tell him about the happy ending. As Officer Wellhouser wrote in his report on the incident, “I told Clark that the outcome of this case was positive and not a ‘small child is hit by a vehicle’ case, because he was aware of his surroundings and cared enough to stop and help.”

Officer Wellhouse submitted a commendation for Operator Clark. TriMet also wants to applaud Clark for his actions and his diligence, but at his own request we will stop shy of calling him a hero.

“Please don’t call me a hero,” said Clark. “I’m not a hero. I just did what anyone should do.”