CHICO (CBSLA.com) — A high school student is being hailed a hero after helping more than a dozen passengers escape from Thursday’s fiery bus crash in Orland that left ten dead.
Eighteen-year-old Miles Hill was sitting near the front of the bus when it was struck by a FedEx tractor-trailer while en route to Humboldt State University for a campus tour.
And although he’s being applauded for his heroism, the horror that followed and the memories of those killed remains vivid.
“I have really bad nightmares about it. Every time I close my eyes I just hear screaming… I see fire,” he told KCAL9’s Teri Okita.
“I watched a person burn alive. I can never forget that. I shielded my face with my arms and kicked out the window in more or less the same instant and just booked it. Thirty-six people made it out – 20-something of which came out through my window that I kicked open,” he said.
Most of those who escaped are back home. Hill is one of two who remain hospitalized.
“[I have] second degree burns on both my hands and down my left side and on the bottom of my right leg,” he said.
“It’s surreal. I mean, I survived a flaming bus that exploded and I was in front.”
Hill, who is expected to make a full recovery, wants to major in history or computer science. His father says his future is as bright as all those who rode that charter bus.
“It’s a difficult thing to deal with saying my son is alive and breathing, and at the same time being fully aware you can’t imagine you send your kids away to college for a joyous event and they’re dead by end of the day,” Teri Gaylord said.
By kicking that hole in the window, Hill is credited with saving numerous students.
He still feels it wasn’t enough.
“I was like, I’m either going to die or all of these people are going to die. I’d much rather have it be me. If I could save all of them I would have,” he said.
Among the five students who never made it back is Ismael Jimenez. His family, including cousin Christopher Franco, came to a makeshift memorial near the crash site this weekend.
“He took a part of me with him, and I’m never going to get that back,” Franco said.