An MSAD 75 school bus was safely brought to a stop by students this morning after the driver reportedly had a medical emergency. Courtesy of Topsham Police

Students riding a school bus in Topsham Monday morning steered the bus to safety after the 77-year-old male driver suffered a medical event that left him incapacitated. He died later Monday.

The interim superintendent for Maine School Administrative District 75 identified the driver as Arthur McDougall of Lisbon in a Facebook notification sent to district staff and families Monday night.

“It is with great sadness that I write to inform you that Arthur McDougall, our bus driver, who was transported to the hospital this morning, has passed away,” Robert J. Lucy wrote in the post. “We offer our deepest condolences to Arthur’s family, friends and colleagues. This is very difficult news to share and process.”

Lucy said the district will make counselors available Tuesday in all of its buildings to support grieving students and staff.

There were 14 middle and high school students on board when McDougall collapsed at the wheel around 7:30 a.m., the Topsham Police Department said. Two students assisted in steering the bus to the side of the road and applied the brakes while a third student attempted to administer first aid.

Topsham Police Chief Marc Hagan said in a telephone interview that he was told that two brothers, one in high school and the other in middle school, were the ones who jumped into action and steered the bus to a stop. The bus might have crashed and injured passengers if those students had not taken action, Hagan said.

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A photograph of the disabled school bus, provided by Hagan, shows the bus went off Route 201 and came to rest on a slightly sloped embankment.

At least one student called 911 for help while several other students got out of the school bus and waved down passing traffic.

McDougall was initially transported to Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick before being flown by LifeFlight helicopter to Maine Medical Center in Portland.

Hagan praised the students and motorists who came to the driver’s aid.

“We would like to thank, and recognize, all of those who took deliberate action to save lives this morning, from the students who helped steer the bus and bring it to a stop, the students who exited the bus and waved down passing traffic for assistance and called 911 for medical assistance, the passers-by who stopped and attempted to assist, and the first responding police officers who started CPR and used an AED (automated external defibrillator) to attempt to save the bus driver’s life,” Hagan said.

Topsham Fire and Rescue members took over life-saving measures when they arrived, Hagan said. The incident took place while the bus was heading east on Route 201 near the Cathance River Bridge.

The students on the bus were headed to classes at Mt. Ararat High School and Mt. Ararat Middle School. None of the students was injured, and the bus did not sustain any damage. Another bus arrived and transported the students to their classes. The district serves students from the towns of Bowdoin, Bowdoinham, Harspwell and Topsham.

“We are thankful to all who assisted and made a difference this morning,” Hagan said. “Our thoughts and prayers are also with the gentleman, who was driving the bus as well as his family.”

Times Record staff writer C. Thacher Carter contributed to this story.

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