SACATON, Ariz. – A bilingual 4th grader hurt in an Arizona bus accident that killed six people and injured more than a dozen others translated from an ambulance stretcher for busy rescue workers as they hurried to set up a triage center, authorities said Saturday.
Oscar Rodriguez of Las Vegas, Nev., was labeled a hero by firefighters and paramedics for helping them communicate with non-English speaking passengers just after Friday's pre-dawn crash on an interstate.
They presented him with gifts and a certificate that reads "Hero of the day" during a visit with him at a Phoenix hospital Saturday.
"This kid stayed calm and was brave more than any other veteran I've worked with," said Kenneth Leslie, a paramedic who, with his partner, was the first to arrive at the scene.
The bus was traveling from the central Mexican state of Zacatecas to Los Angeles.
It entered the United States at El Paso, Texas, and was headed to Phoenix to change drivers when it hit a pickup truck, veered onto the left shoulder of the road, overcorrected and rolled. The roof of the bus was crushed and its windows were knocked out.
Rodriguez, 11, was one of 22 passengers aboard the bus when it crashed at about 5:30 a.m. MST on the Gila River Indian Reservation, some 25 miles south of downtown Phoenix.
Rodriguez and 15 others suffered injuries, including head injuries and broken spines and pelvises. More than a dozen people remained hospitalized Saturday, including the bus driver who was among nine listed in critical condition at area hospitals.
Maricopa Medical Center hospital spokesman Michael Murphy called Rodriguez "a real trouper" and said he was in good condition. He didn't offer specifics on Rodriguez's injuries.
Federal transportation officials said the bus, owned by Van Nuys, Calif.-based Tierra Santa Inc., was operating illegally. The company was told in April and again in December not to transport passengers across state lines.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety has wrapped up its investigation, and spokesman Bart Graves said details will be released sometime next week.