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Bus driver Wu Bin's wife, Wang Lizhen (center), and relatives are overwhelmed by grief on Sunday. Wu's bravery captured the public's imagination. Dong Xuming / for China Daily
A bus driver who died after first protecting his passengers has been hailed as a hero by the public.
The driver, Wu Bin, 48, was struck by flying metal debris that smashed through his windscreen as he was driving the bus in Jiangsu province on Tuesday.
Despite suffering severe injuries, Wu managed to bring the vehicle to a halt, open the door and even reminded passengers to be careful as they were still on the highway, before passing out.
Wu died on Friday in hospital.
Experts believe that the debris flew off from a vehicle speeding in the opposite direction on May 29 and pierced the windscreen. The bus had 24 passengers and was traveling from Jiangsu's Wuxi to Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang province.
Wang's sister, Wang Limin, holds a photo of Wu and his wife.
Because of Wu's presence of mind, all the passengers escaped injury.
His heroism, at a time when a number of well-publicized incidents seemed to suggest that the public's concern for their fellow citizens might have been eroded by a booming economy, received widespread publicity as it was clearly captured by on-board surveillance cameras.
The local authorities recognized Wu, who worked for Hangzhou Long-distance Transport Group, as a role model and hero.
"His life was ordinary but at the last moment he became a hero," said his older sister, Wu Bing. "He respected his parents and was a good father and a role model as a husband."
Police are investigating and the metal debris is being analyzed.
Wu's vehicle was traveling at 94 kilometers per hour along the highway when the 2.5-kilogram, 30-centimeter-long piece of metal suddenly smashed the windscreen and hit Wu, causing liver rupture and several rib fractures.
In great pain, Wu stopped the vehicle, put on the handbrake, switched on the alarm light and opened the door.
Wu then rose from his seat and told passengers to call the police. And he reminded passengers to be careful as they were still on the highway.
Passengers at first did not realize anything was wrong, said Han Weichun who was seated near the back of the bus.
"We heard an almighty crash but thought it might be an accident involving other vehicles. Our bus pulled over gently before Wu turned around toward us, looking pale and sweating. He opened the door, told us to be careful and then went silent."
Passengers carried Wu to a more comfortable seat and called the police.
Families, friends and those saved by him arrived at his home in Hangzhou, to mourn their hero.
"I have been driving a car for more than 10 years and I know how difficult it is to stop a vehicle safely in great pain," said passenger Liu Shibing, who went to pay his respects at Wu's home.
"We admire him and are very grateful." If he had done anything differently, turned the wheel too far in one direction, or not managed to stop the bus, we would not be here, Liu said.
Chen Yibo, a work colleague, said Wu joined the company in 2003. Wu drove more than 1 million km in the past decade, or around 30 times the equator's circumference, without a single accident or complaint by passengers. Wu was a good father and husband, his relatives said.
Wu's wife, Wang Lizhen, said his last words to her were a simple goodbye on Tuesday morning.
"I know he did not want to leave me when he was injured in hospital," she said. "When he was unconscious, I touched his forehead and held his hand and he would react slightly and he seemed to want to talk to me."
The couple, married 18 years ago, were planning to buy a pair of rings. Local government leaders also visited the family on Saturday to pay their respects.
Industry professionals said that the metal debris might be part of a drum brake from a vehicle on the other side of the road.