By Capt. Shane Sandretto July 28, 2011
A 10th Mountain Division (LI) Soldier saved tourists from a burning bus near Waterloo, N.Y., while on leave Friday night.
Sgt. Jacob Perkins, a fire support NCO with 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, went on leave here at midnight, and by 1:30 a.m., he was entering a burning bus on Interstate 90 to help passengers escape the flames.
“I saw the semi hit the bus and it burst into flames,” said Perkins, 28. “I pulled over and just went to help.”
A tour bus from London, Ontario, had been pulled to the side of I-90 eastbound near Waterloo to fix a flat tire. When the bus attempted to re-enter traffic, it was struck from behind by a semi-trailer, and both vehicles exploded. Perkins was traveling west on I-90 and saw the accident.
He pulled over, crossed the median on foot and went to help.
“Someone was yelling, ‘did she get out,’” Perkins said about what he heard when he got to the accident. “It sounded like people were still on the bus, so I just went in there.”
Perkins aided two passengers off the bus, and then checked as many seats by hand as he could until the heat and smoke became overwhelming.
“You couldn’t see with all the smoke, so I felt the seats until it got too hot " I mean it was on fire,” he said.
Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Martin Dempsey called Perkins himself to congratulate him for a job well done.
“I was really surprised to hear the caller say, ‘this is Gen. Dempsey, the chief of staff.’ I mean, I don’t get a lot of calls like that,” said Perkins, who joined the Army in February 2008.
Running onto a burning bus and ensuring all passengers got off safely was not all that Perkins did that morning. Two women " the wife and daughter of a Mr. Blair from London, Ontario " had no way to re-unite their family after Blair had been evacuated from the scene by air. Perkins offered to drive them to the hospital in Rochester.
When they arrived, they found out that Blair had been re-routed to a hospital in Syracuse while in flight. Being a true Samaritan, Perkins then drove the ladies to Syracuse and stayed with them until relatives arrived from Canada later that morning.
When Perkins asked what he should do now, Lt. Col. David L. Sanders, his squadron commander, told him, “I want you to go home and see your Family.”
Accepting nothing but a thank-you for all of his efforts, Perkins continued on his way home to see his daughter the next day.
“You’re a Soldier 24-7 " I mean, you don’t get a day off from being a good citizen,” Perkins said after being hailed as a hero by the New York State Police, residents of London, Ontario, and the media near his hometown in Missouri.
Speaking to reporters in Springfield, Perkins said, “I’m just glad the Army has prepared me to react to any situation. That’s all I did.”