Trying to fix leak, driver is trapped under tour bus

Uninjured, he returns to work after being freed

July 09, 2000|By Jay Apperson | Jay Apperson,SUN STAFF

Joseph Early spent yesterday afternoon driving a group of NAACP conventioneers on a sight-seeing tour of Baltimore.

Not bad for somebody who just hours before had been trapped beneath a bus for 45 minutes.

"I just couldn't get out," said Early, 46, of Baltimore. "It was not a good feeling."

Early, owner of Bonnino Tours, a charter company, said he was on his way to buy tires yesterday morning when he noticed something was wrong with the bus and pulled over on eastbound Pulaski Highway, just west of North Point Road. Shortly before noon, he crawled beneath to tighten a leaky seal on the driveshaft.

He somehow became trapped between the axle and sections of the vehicle's frame, unable to slide out.

Early acknowledged that his size probably contributed to his predicament. "I'm a big-framed fellow," he said. "Three hundred and fifty pounds. About 6 foot."

When he couldn't get out, he yelled for help. Wallace Chester, who was driving past with his friend Earl Stith, heard the cries.

"I didn't know where he was. Then I heard him under the bus," said Stith, who called 911.

Rescue workers from Baltimore and from Middle River in Baltimore County used hydraulic jacks and wood blocks to raise the bus.

"Because he wasn't injured, we could take our time and lift it and stabilize it properly," said Capt. Joseph Brocato of the city fire department's Rescue One unit.

Parts of Early's body were covered with grease when rescue workers pulled him from beneath the truck. He was taken by ambulance to Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, where he was examined and quickly discharged.

By mid-afternoon, he had returned to work.

As he drove visitors from the convention of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People toward Fells Point, he said, "I could be home, sitting in a tub, soaking and taking a couple of aspirin, but I'm dedicated to the job."

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