Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Slain bus driver described as a humble hero

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MIDLAND CITY, Ala. -- As the police standoff with a man accused of holding a five-year-old boy hostage continued Saturday, a nearby community prepared to bury the beloved bus driver who was shot to death trying to protect children on his bus when the episode began days earlier.

Charles Albert Poland Jr., 66, who was known around the town of Newton as Chuck, was described by people in his hometown as a humble hero. Hundreds of people attended a viewing service for Poland on Saturday evening. His funeral was set for this afternoon.

"I believe that if he had to do it all over again tomorrow, he would," said Poland's sister-in-law, Lavern Skipper, earlier Saturday. "He would do it for those children."

Authorities said Jim Lee Dykes boarded a stopped school bus filled with 21 children Tuesday afternoon and demanded two boys between six and eight years old. When Poland tried to block his way, the gunman shot him several times and took one five-year-old boy -- who police say remains in an underground bunker with Dykes.

Sheriff Wally Olson said in a briefing with reporters Saturday that Dykes has told them he has blankets and an electric heater in the bunker on his property. Authorities have set up a command post at a church and have been communicating with Dykes through a ventilation pipe to the underground bunker.

Olson also said Dykes has allowed police to deliver colouring books, medication and toys for the boy.

-- The Associated Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 3, 2013 A7

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