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Cool Things - Miniature Trailways Bus

Miniature Continential Trailways bus awarded to Widsteen

Lucille Widsteen received these honors for saving passengers aboard a runaway Continental Trailways bus.

The last person to board a Continental Trailways bus out of Topeka one afternoon in February 1972, was Lucille Widsteen. Little did Lucille know that the seat she chose would lead her to an act of heroism.

Widsteen was on her way to visit a brother in Dallas. The last of 16 passengers to board the bus, she selected the seat immediately behind the driver. Just a few miles outside Topeka on the Kansas Turnpike, the driver suffered a heart attack and slumped over in his seat. The bus began to veer out of control.

"He just fell over sideways, but the seat belt held him in," Widsteen said later. "When I saw his hands go off the steering wheel, I don't know what made me react but I just jumped up and grabbed the wheel because we were headed over an embankment."

Medal from Congress

Throwing herself across the rail that separated her from the driver, Widsteen reached up and over the collapsed man and grabbed the steering wheel. She used all her strength to try to overpower the heavy vehicle, which had swerved off the highway. The bus ripped up about 170 feet of guard-rail and blew a rear tire before Widsteen was able to turn it back into the driving lane. The driver then revived long enough to slam his feet on the brake pedal and stop the bus.

All people aboard the vehicle survived the incident. Only one passenger was slightly injured attempting to help Widsteen gain control of the bus.

A rural Topekan, 54 years old and the mother of three, Widsteen suddenly found herself the center of much attention. Her act of bravery was the subject of newspaper and magazine articles around the nation, many of which captured her sense of humor about the incident. "I always ride the bus," Widsteen told reporters on the day after the event. "I'm afraid to fly."

Widsteen was showered with honors. Continental Trailways gave her a cash award and this miniature replica of the bus she helped save. The city of Topeka bestowed on her its Distinguished Citizen of Topeka Medal. Widsteen also received a medal from the U.S. Congress and congratulatory letters from politicians.

Lucille donated the miniature bus and medals to the Kansas Museum of History in 1990.

Entry: Cool Things - Miniature Trailways Bus

Author: Kansas Historical Society

Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.

Date Created: November 1996

Date Modified: January 2013

The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.