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Local school bus driver lauded as hero after helping save boy’s life

by Andrew Bell | December 23, 2022 at 1:31 p.m.
Corey Woods, left, and Cooper McBay pose for a picture at the Texarkana Arkansas School District Administration Building after a board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2022. Woods was honored by TASD’s Board of Trustees for being a good samaritan and rushing to the aid of a citizen. (Staff photo by Andrew Bell)

TEXARKANA, Ark. -- On Sept. 29 at about 4:30 p.m., Sonny and Lisa McBay received an emergency phone update that would completely change their lives.

But due to actions taken by a local school bus driver, they look back on that day with relief instead of complete despair.

About 15 minutes before the McBays received a Life 360 application update on their cellphones, their 15-year-old grandson Cooper McBay sustained a life-threatening head injury after losing control of and crashing a four-wheeler, and it rendered him unresponsive with difficulty breathing. The alert text said Cooper had either been in a crash, dropped his phone or had a hard fall.

Corey Woods, a bus driver for the Texarkana Arkansas School District, arrived on the scene shortly after the accident as Cooper was lying in the road. Woods quickly assessed the situation and blocked the highway off.

He was able to clear Cooper's air passage by turning him on his side, allowing him to breathe. He then called 911 and gave location specifics.

"The immediate actions taken by Mr. Woods were absolutely necessary to Cooper's survival," said Sonny McBay, Cooper's grandfather.

"I really can't say what was going through my head," Woods said. "All I know is that when I saw him lying in the road, I just reacted as if it was my child, which is something that I would hope someone would do for one of mine."

Woods said the bus route that led him to Cooper on Dooley Ferry Road wasn't even supposed to be his on that particular day.

"It just so happened that the driver was out of town and couldn't make it, so I had to drive his route. It just happened that way," he said. "And I told Mr. McBay that God always sends you help before you know you even need help. It really just came together that way."

After the accident, Cooper was taken to Wadley Regional Medical Center, where he underwent an emergency brain surgery, then was taken via helicopter to the Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.

On Oct. 4, his brain pressure got so high, doctors had to perform another life-saving surgery that lasted over four hours. They removed the right portion of his skull.

Cooper spent five and a half weeks in the hospital's pediatric intensive care unit and was completely unconscious for over three weeks, his grandmother Lisa McBay said.

"It was unbelievable. You can't even describe it, really," Lisa McBay said. "Everybody in that unit is critical. All of the children there are."

Cooper is back home now and is regularly attending therapy. Due to head injuries suffered during the accident, he not only can't recall what happened, but he can't remember events up to three or four weeks before the accident occurred.

"I really don't remember any of it," Cooper said.

He wears a protective helmet over a large scar on the top of his head, and his grandparents say he is constantly exhausted throughout most days. Cooper will likely undergo another surgery within the next month to replace the piece of skull removed in his initial surgery.

"He's just trying to re-acclimate now, really," Lisa McBay said. "He doesn't remember a lot of things. We still don't know cognitively what may be deficits, because they haven't wanted to do any testing until he has this last surgery -- hopefully the last surgery -- to put the skull piece back in."

For all that Cooper has been through since September and all that he will continue to endure on the road to recovery, he says he's just happy to be alive.

"I'm really appreciative for Mr. Woods," he said. "If he wouldn't have turned me over, I would be dead right now. I'm glad that he found me when he did."

On Dec. 13, Woods was honored by TASD's Board of Trustees for being a good samaritan and rushing to the aid of a citizen.

During the board meeting, Sonny McBay emotionally recalled his grandson's accident and the actions taken by Woods to ensure his safety, thanking him as meeting attendees gave a standing ovation.

McBay said after Cooper's surgeries, he called the district to find out which driver it was who came to his aid after the accident. After Woods gave McBay a call, they spoke and have met up a couple of times since then.

"We just wanted to let everybody get in on how great this is and how much good that was done," he said. "I thank God that my grandson is alive. A lot of people had a part in saving his life. But without (Corey's) presence of mind and what he did, Cooper wouldn't be here."

Woods said being honored by the district and developing a relationship with Cooper and the McBay family "means the world to him."

"It means a whole lot because before I got a chance to actually meet them, everybody was asking me like, 'Why didn't you tell us you were a hero?' Well to me, it didn't seem that way because I just did what any normal person would do in that situation," Woods said.

"It humbles you. I've been very humbled by it. I tell them I don't want to be labeled as a hero or anything, but they keep telling me to embrace it."

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