Student Josh Burtenshaw and three friends have been nominated for Pride of Australia medals after they helped passengers escape from a crashed school bus in northern NSW.

Josh, 16, said he had noticed the driver was obviously unwell before he “slouched over the wheel and the bus crashed”.

“The bus was on its side and the windows were all smashed. I climbed out through a broken window. Then I went back into the bus and told everyone ‘I’ll be back’, because I needed to get to the driver.

“I found him three metres in front of the bus, face down in sludge. He’d been thrown through the windscreen.”

The bus driver — who had suffered a suspected heart attack — was treated at the scene by Josh, who rolled the 63-year-old driver onto his side and performed basic first aid.

Then he and his friends formed a rescue team, passing schoolmates out through the broken glass openings one by one.

All 35 students on board had to be hospitalised, but no-one other than the driver suffered serious injury.