Ninth-grader Jeremy Rice stood next to school bus No. 3 on Thursday morning, holding an ice pack for his sore ear and recounting his heroic tale from earlier in the day.

The Colorado Springs Early Colleges student had just sat down about 7 a.m. after boarding a large yellow bus just north of Platte Avenue on Chelton Road when the drama began, ending with Rice steering the vehicle to safety.

Rice, 14, remembered noticing the bus driver reach down for a garbage pail that had been knocked over by a student. While the bus was in motion, the driver attempted to right himself in his seat and make sure his safety belt was secure. Then, the driver tumbled to the right and down into the bus’s stairwell, Rice said.

“I really wasn’t thinking at all,” Rice said. “I just acted.”

The student, in his Nebraska Cornhuskers T-shirt, black shorts and Adidas sandals, left his seat eight rows back, darted past the other 16 students and grabbed the wheel.

It all happened in a flash, Rice said.

“I stood up and looked around and nobody else would move,” he said. “Then I saw a blue semi-truck coming right at us and I ran.”

The boy, standing over the steering wheel, maneuvered the vehicle and turned left onto Platte, the bus driver giving instructions. He quickly told Rice how to steer the large wheel and ordered him to pull a small yellow knob to engage the parking brake.

Rice pulled the knob and the bus halted abruptly, barely missing a tree, the boy said.

Rice slammed into the windshield and came away with ringing in his ear and a sore shoulder.

“This is kind of exciting,” said Keith King, a school administrator, who drove the bus back to Early Colleges, a charter school at 4435 N. Chestnut St., off Interstate 25 and Garden of the Gods Road. “We ended up with a real happy story today.”

King expressed pride for Rice’s heroics, saying, “This is a school about giving kids opportunities and the chance to accelerate their abilities. And that’s what Jeremy did today. It’s exciting to see kids do great things.”

King noted that the bus driver did not appear to be injured. The driver won’t drive for the rest of the week to make sure he is OK after the fall.

When asked if the school would take any disciplinary action against the driver, King said he has a “great driving record.” He said no decision has been made and a standard personnel evaluation was underway Thursday afternoon.

Colorado Springs police were called to Platte Avenue on Thursday morning after receiving reports that the driver had passed out. Police spokeswoman Barbara Miller said the bus driver will not be cited.

Rice’s father, Sam Rice, learned of the incident when he turned on the television news and the ticker at the bottom of the screen indicated that a teen had saved a bus from near tragedy. He became concerned because he didn’t know what school the bus belonged to.

“Then Jeremy called me and I said, ‘OK, so you were involved,” Sam Rice said.

The boy’s father joked when asked what he thought about his son’s actions.

“It’s his fourth day at school and already he’s driving illegally. But I think it’s all been worth it,” he said.

Jeremy Rice, one of eight kids in the family, said he’d never before driven anything but an ATV and a golf cart, so grabbing the wheel of the 24-seat school bus was rather intimidating. He was pretty impressed when the vehicle came to rest safely along Platte, facing oncoming traffic in the westbound lanes. “I actually got it pretty perfect,” he said smiling.

The boy said the other kids on the bus and classmates at school couldn’t believe what he had done, saying, “Dude you’re so crazy. You have got the guts.”

Despite the appreciation from the kids, his father and King, Jeremy Rice hopes his time in the spotlight is a one-time thing.

“I was pretty scared,” he said. “I don’t think I’d want that to happen again.”

Contact Matt Steiner at 636-0362 or follow him on Twitter @gazsteiner.

Contact Matt Steiner at 636-0362 or follow him on Twitter @gazsteiner.