updated 11/19/2004 8:48:31 AM ET 2004-11-19T13:48:31

Passengers stopped a charter bus from plunging nearly 200 feet off a bridge after the driver collapsed, apparently from a heart attack.

The bus was near the top of the Sunshine Skyway bridge Wednesday afternoon when Thomas Grove, 61, fell out of his seat, passengers and authorities said.

It slammed into the 3-foot concrete wall, which blocks vehicles from tumbling into Tampa Bay. Three of the five passengers jumped out of their seats and ran toward the front.

“Grab the wheel!” 70-year-old Kenneth McAllister recalled shouting to his wife, Mary, and another woman.

The women held the steering wheel until McAllister could slide into the driver’s seat. He struggled to keep the bus in its lane and hit the brake. It stopped just before the highest part of the bridge.

The passengers — all unharmed — called 911 and Amtrak, which uses the bus to shuttle passengers from Fort Myers to Tampa. They spent another another 10 minutes in the bus because they didn’t know how to open the door.

Two nurses driving by stopped to help, performing CPR on the driver. Grove, of Pinellas Park, died within hours at a hospital. Early reports suggested he may have had a heart attack, authorities said.

“It happened so fast,” McAllister, of Bradenton, said from his cell phone aboard an Amtrak train to New York City late Wednesday. “We all felt so lucky to be alive.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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