Nearly three-dozen students escaped serious harm after a morning ride to school came to an abrupt halt when their bus collided with a minivan in the city’s northwest Thursday morning.

The bus hit a Dodge Caravan and crashed into a large spruce tree outside of 7094-9 St. NW at 8:15 a.m. — and that’s when Bill Russnak decided to jump into action.

With the front end of the bus suspended six feet in the air, Russnak and his nephew used a crowbar to wrench open the emergency door and free the children trapped inside.

“They were all screaming and hollering in there, but we got them out quick and sat them on the lawn and gave them blankets,” said Russnak.

Marilyn Gunn was home when the bus came hurtling into her yard.

“I was talking on the phone and I heard this really big bang, and when I looked out my front window I saw all these kids stuck inside the bus,” she said. “It was a really horrifying morning.”

“Both vehicles were headed eastbound on 78th Avenue. The collision happened when the driver of the minivan tried to turn left on Ninth Street,” said Calgary police Duty Insp. Curtis Olson, who could not give any more details of the ongoing investigation.

The children were bound for Balmoral School, which hosts students in grades 5 to 8, and King George School, which hosts students from kindergarten to Grade 6.

All 34 children on the bus were taken to the Alberta Children’s Hospital with minor injuries and later released to their parents, Olson said.

He added that the female bus driver, as well as the female driver of the van, were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

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