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Bus driver hears woman's cry for help

George Dirscherl says he was just doing his job when he left the bus to check on a late dial-a-ride passenger.

By ALEX LEARY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2002


INVERNESS -- The elderly lady was always on time. When the bus driver honked, the woman would promptly come out of her home, her gait a little unsteady, ready for an afternoon of shopping in town.

So on June 3, George Dirscherl sensed that something was wrong. Two minutes turned into three and then five.

He could have driven away. There were other riders waiting.

But the bus driver knew she would have called Citrus County Transit to cancel her dial-a-ride service. "She's that reliable," Dirscherl said.

What happened next is nothing short of heroic, say county officials, who plan to publicly commend Dirscherl next month.

The former New York City police officer swung out from behind the wheel and walked up to the door. He knocked and rang the bell.

"I don't think I'd be putting my ear to the door," said Dirscherl's supervisor, Dan Greenough. Yet that is exactly what Dirscherl did.

The cry was faint but unmistakable. "She was saying, "Help, help' " Dirscherl recalled Monday.

The 53-year-old Dirscherl, who moved to Homosassa in 1994, hurried back to his bus and called for help. A Citrus County sheriff's deputy arrived first, followed by an ambulance.

A neighbor had a key to the house, and when the deputy went inside, he found the 83-year-old woman on her couch.

She said she had been unable to move for three days, her legs saddled by arthritis. The phone was out of reach.

County officials did not release the woman's name to protect her privacy. When reached at home Monday, she said she did not want to talk about the incident but wanted Dirscherl's name so she could thank him.

Some say Dirscherl, who was switched to the Inverness driving route at the last minute that day, saved her life.

"I know that being called a hero can be an awesome responsibility, but I know that in the eyes of one woman, you are just that, a hero," wrote Anne Westbrook, director of support services, in a commendation letter to Dirscherl earlier this month.

Dirscherl will be honored during the July 9 County Commission meeting. He said he accepted the praise but was just doing his job. "You want to help people if you can," he said.

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