Five El Paso-area students and their school-bus driver were not injured Tuesday night when an alleged drunk driver hit their bus.
The bus was coming from Faith Christian Academy just after 6 p.m., traveling west on I-10 near Kansas Street, when the accident happened.
"God was there with me at that time -- He was," said bus driver Jesusita Sandoval. "They're the most important thing we carry on that bus -- very important commodity."
Gloria Munoz, 38, was traveling west on I-10 near the downtown exit, police said. She saw congestion ahead -- from an earlier accident -- and decided to throw her car in reverse. She swerved out of the center lane and into the right lane, where she hit the back-left tire of the westbound bus, police said. The bus went through the barricade on the right shoulder.
"And I said, 'What's gonna happen?'" Sandoval said. "Really, at that time, I said, 'God, God, please help me, help me.'"
After smashing through the barricade, the bus went up a shoulder ramp, stopped near the top, then started rolling back down the ramp, Sandoval said. She slammed on the brakes and held onto the wheel for dear life, she said, and somehow prevented the bus from going back into the highway lanes.
The officer, already at the scene from the initial accident, told Sandoval he was shocked that the bus never flipped over, she said.
"I don't even know if I turned off the key or not," Sandoval said. "I was so worried about them."
Hugs abounded, she said -- Sandoval has chauffeured some of the students since they were in kindergarten. The students were athletes coming home from practice, all between the ages of 12 and 17.
"I love driving buses, I love my kids, I love those kids on the bus," she said. "We're like a family."
Police charged Munoz with DWI. She had a blood-alcohol content of 0.17, police said, which is a Class A misdemeanor and could carry up to a yearlong jail sentence. Her bond is set at $1,000 at the El Paso County Detention Facility.
After hitting the bus, Munoz also hit a pickup truck that was traveling west on I-10, police said. No one was injured.
"Her car got all flat, and the hood was all bent over," Sandoval said about Munoz's Toyota Prius. "Thank God she's alive.