In January, veteran Boulder Valley School District bus driver Jim Neville was honored by the Boulder Police Department for helping to locate a five-year-old girl who was lost while walking home on a very cold and snowy October day.
During the award ceremony at police headquarters, officers thanked Neville for his “keen perception and compassion,” before bestowing him with the department’s Outstanding Community Member Award.
Officer Chris Burke was one of the police officers who responded to the call about the lost little girl, and he recalls that the temperature that afternoon was only in the single digits.
“It was one of those freak days because we don’t usually get that kind of cold that early in the year and there was a bunch of snow,” remembered Officer Burke.
Burke, who nominated Neville for the award and found him after the ceremony to congratulate him, believes the bus driver’s actions were nothing less than heroic.
“He saved a kid’s life. If he hadn’t done what he did, I have no doubt in my mind that we would be having a different conversation.”
Neville, humbly accepted the award.
“I just happened to be at the right place and the right person at the right time,” Neville said. “The truth is we have 200 other bus drivers that are very conscientious. They try to do what is best for kids. They are looking out for their best interest. They are superb bus drivers. It just happened to be me that day.”
Neville, who was substituting for another driver on the route, says he received a call from BVSD’s transportation dispatch alerting him of a lost girl. Moments later, while he was looping through a neighborhood, he spotted her.
“We are trained to look for things that are not normal. There was this small girl. You don’t see kids this little by themselves usually,” Neville explained. “She didn’t have her coat on and her coat was inside out. She didn’t have her hat and gloves on and that didn’t look normal. She also wasn’t walking with purpose. Even people that are walking slow – look like they are going someplace. She looked kind of hesitant and didn’t quite look right. I thought, ‘this has got to be the girl that everyone is looking for.’”
“I scooped her up and put her on the bus,” Neville added. “All of the students on the bus crowded around her and comforted her for a moment. It was charming and adorable.”
Outside of being a bit frightened by the ordeal, the little girl was okay and was quickly reunited with her family.
Neville credits the regular training bus drivers receive in Boulder Valley, as well as a class recently offered to local bus drivers by the Department of Homeland Security.
“Just a week before, a lot of us had attended an anti-terrorist class. They taught us to be on the lookout for what is out of the ordinary,” Neville said.
“It was our training, a conscientious dispatcher, the school and police working together,” he concluded.