UD basketball coach's 'heroic' actions save team from bus accident

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DUBUQUE, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) -- A quick thinking coach is being hailed as a hero.

It all began yesterday when the University of Dubuque's women's basketball team was returning from a tournament in Nashville, Tennessee.

What started out as another bus ride after a road game quickly changed when everyone felt a rumbling in the bus.

"I'm not gonna lie, I was shook; and I wasn't sure if I was sleeping or what was going on," Mark Noll, Head Coach of the University of Dubuque women's basketball team said.

The Trigg County Sheriff's Department in Kentucky says the team's bus was traveling on Interstate-24 when the driver had a "medical emergency."

"Our bus driver just had a medical issue where he kind of passed out," Justin Smith, an assistant coach for the basketball team said. "And we hit a guard rail going about 70 [miles per hour]."

"I just kind of bounced up and did probably what any single person would have done when they see that and jumped up, grab the wheel, and hit the brakes and tried to get the bus off the interstate as fast as possible," Smith said.

When Smith jumped into the driver seat to take control, others were still trying to figure out what was going on.

"It's one of those things where, you know, you're sleeping and you hear a noise, but you're not really sure what that noise is," Noll said.

"I think my head slammed against the window and we hit the guardrail and I looked at the driver, and I could tell he was unresponsive, and just jumped up and grabbed the wheel," Smith said.

Smith has been a basketball coach in Dubuque for over ten years. But at the University of Dubuque, he started last June.

Noll said he knew Smith was a great coach, person, and leader.

"I've watched Coach Smith for about 10-plus years and when our position opened up as an assistant coach he was the first one I went after," Noll said. "He was the one that I wanted to hire for that position, because I've already seen the kind of person that he is."

The Trigg County Sheriff's Department in Kentucky called Smith's actions "heroic."

But Smith says he was just doing what he needed to do.

"Anyone would have done the same thing I think," Smith said. "I think there's a lot of people that do a lot of other self-sacrificing things that I would call heroic, I just did what I needed to do to keep myself and the people on the bus alive."