A “heroic” bus driver who motored through a Queens street clogged by waist-deep flooding during Wednesday night’s deadly downpour recalled the shocking moments her bus was filled with water — and her “thankful” passengers who cheered her on as she carefully navigated the treacherous conditions.
“I was at the light, and then I see flooding coming from floor, and then it was like, ‘Oh my God,’” Rosa Almonte, 46, told The Post Thursday afternoon.
“Then, when I was in the middle there already, it was too late to go back or stay there. It was a decision,” she said. “I was standing there and I say, ‘Oh my God. It’s a lot of water. Do I make a decision to go through the water or stay here?’ It was terrible.”
The appreciative straphangers voiced words of encouragement after she navigated the flood.
“I open the door and then all the water coming like a river from the bus. And then the passengers started saying, ‘Oh my God, we are so proud of you! Oh my God, thank you for bringing us safe to the other side!’” said Almonte. “They were thankful. They were really thankful.”
The Dominican-born Almonte, who has worked as a bus driver for eight years, remembered trembling out of fear when the central Queens bus route Wednesday night suddenly turned into a canal.
“It was scary, I was shaking. It was terrible,” the bus driver told The Post. “When I went to the other side, I told them, ‘Oh my God, I’m shaking. I’m so nervous!’”
A pair of clips of the astonishing scene posted on Twitter after 10 p.m. shows more than three feet of water blanketing Queens Boulevard as the Q58 was stalled at a red light. In front of the bus, the video captures multiple cars submerged in the river-like boulevard.
But after the traffic light turned green, Almonte drove the bus forward as one straphanger chimed in with a comforting, “You gotta take your time,” and another nervously shook her head at the surreal scene, video shows. Behind her, a pair of bus riders stood on the seats to evade getting drenched by the pooling rain water.
When the bus passed the intersection, a man repeatedly shouted, “Good work!” as the passengers applauded Almonte’s able steering of the bus-turned-ship.
“I didn’t even know that guy was recording,” she said with a laugh of the viral video.
She said she didn’t pay heed to the water in the bus, and focused on making it through the “river” of water surrounding her.
“It was a river inside the bus. When I opened the door to let water go away, I was like ‘Oh my god, that water was in the bus?!’”
During a press conference in front of the bus used Wednesday night as a ship, Almonte recalled being focused solely on ensuring passengers were out of harm’s way, and didn’t notice that passengers had attempted to keep dry atop the vehicle’s seats.
“The only thing in that moment is take your passengers to safety, a safe place. I don’t even see the water in my bus, I don’t even see the people was over the seat,” Almonte said outside a bus depot on Fresh Pond Road. “I just, my only thing, I just think I gonna go through this water, I gonna take it up fast and get to the other side. This the only thing.”
Almonte modestly insisted she was just doing her job like any other bus driver would.
“Every day we, try to do the best we can with the job we’re doing,” she said. “Everybody’s a hero here. All my coworkers are heroes here because we doing [this] every day for the community. We just happy to serve.”
“You’re not doing your job waiting for somebody to reward you; you just do it,” the mother of three said. “It’s part of your job.”
“If I had to do something to save my passengers, I’m gonna do it again.”
Her intrepid driving came as unprecedented flash floods killed at least 12 in New York City and more than a dozen others in the tri-state area. The deluge disrupted subway service, and caused severe flooding of major roads in the five boroughs.
Gov. Kathy Hochul called Almonte “God’s gift” to New Yorkers.
“Rosa did something that is absolutely unbelievably heroic,” she said, lauding Almonte’s “bravery.”
“They gave them the assurance that I’m going to take care of you, I’m going to protect you, I’m going to get you where you’re going,” said Hochul. “So I want to tell you how grateful we are for your bravery, your courage, and the fact that you’re back here again.”
Additional reporting by David Meyer and Bernadette Hogan