FRESNO, CA (KMPH/CNN) - Police say a California man could face several attempted kidnapping charges after he allegedly got on a bus and tried to drive off with the elementary school-aged students still on board.
Christopher Martinez, 47, was arrested Monday evening following an alleged attempt to take over a school bus full of sixth-grade students returning from a science field trip.
Just 15 minutes from Reagan Elementary School in Kingsburg, CA, the bus made what’s being called an emergency stop at a gas station.
A teacher escorted two students to the restroom, while the bus driver from Southwestern Transportation stayed behind with the 41 other students. The bus door was open.
Police say Martinez jumped on board and ordered the driver to start the bus and drive it away.
Geneva Selsor, an 11-year-old student, was on the bus during the incident. She says talking about it has helped to release the “weight off [her] shoulders.”
"I look up, and he's in front of the bus yelling,” Geneva said. "He told us he was going to take us to the road to Jesus, and at that moment, I thought I was going to die."
Police say the bus driver tried to stop Martinez.
"She struggled with him, and at one point, he even grabbed her by the collar, trying to pull her out of the seat,” Lt. Mark Hudson said. "She was able to… remove the keys from the ignition and place them in her bra, hiding them from the suspect."
The driver was also able to honk the horn and set off an alarm that alerted her dispatch to call 911.
Police say the teacher came back and, upon seeing the commotion, told the two students with her to run back into the store and ask the clerk for help.
"He [the clerk] walked up, and he was like, ‘No, you need to get off the bus.’ And the guy put up his hands… and he just walked off. Then, that was it, and I was so relieved after he got off the bus,” Geneva said.
Police immediately took Martinez into custody. Another bus was brought to take the students to the school.
Geneva says getting back on the school bus Tuesday was a struggle.
"I didn't want to get on, but I knew it's only – it's not going to help to just stay off the bus. You’ve got to get over it, got to get over the fear,” she said.
The district sent a letter home to parents, and the superintendent is personally calling each one of them to talk about the incident.
Parents say they want the district and bus drivers to reconsider where they park for rest stops.