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MetroBus driver who saved a toddler recognized for heroic actions

"The bus is a safe haven. I am not a hero. I was just doing what I thought was the right thing to do"
Credit: Bi-State Development

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. — A MetroBus driver from East St. Louis was recognized for saving a young boy who was sitting in a vacant lot all alone.

The Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners presented the special proclamation to driver Nicholas Autoomp during its June 25 regular meeting.

“We expect good work from our employees in the field, but when somebody does something exceptional, it deserves special recognition. What Nick did was heroic. It was very brave,” said Justin Zimmerman, vice chair of the Bi-State Development Board of Commissioners.

Back in April, Autoomp was driving in East St. Louis when he noticed the boy, who was about 2 years old, wearing only a diaper and sitting alone in a vacant lot on North 18th Street near the MetroLink tracks. He immediately stopped and brought the boy onto the bus and wrapped him in his coat to warm him up.

Autoomp contacted the MetroBus Operations Center and they called the police, Bi-State officials said.

The driver comforted the boy and gave him water and chips from his own lunch he had packed. Another driver also saw the boy and wanted to put him in his car but Autoomp was determined to protect the boy until police arrived.

Autoomp said he appreciates the training he has received from Metro that has helped him be prepared for anything during his route.

“It was heart breaking to see that child all alone,” said Autoomp. “I have a daughter who is a little bit older than him. The bus is a safe haven. I am not a hero. I was just doing what I thought was the right thing to do.”

According to Bi-State, Metro Transit vehicles are designated as safe places for children and adults to go for help in the area.

“We ask our operators to show up every day and they do in what are difficult circumstances. I want to remind everyone it is not easy to operate our machinery and we have hundreds of team members who do that every single day,” said Taulby Roach, Bi-State Development president. “In this case, Nick really went above and beyond, showing compassion, reaching out to the humanity of our customers and even those who may not be our customers in a really extraordinary action. I have the pleasure of recognizing Nick for performing those actions above and beyond the call of duty.”