Beaufort County Schools bus catches fire
A Beaufort County Schools bus carrying three adults and four exceptional children, one in a wheelchair, caught fire while the bus driver was delivering students home after school.
According to Jerry Wynne, director of transportation for Beaufort County Schools, the bus driver smelled smoke, then began to see smoke, while traveling up Highland Drive at approximately 3:20 p.m. The driver quickly pulled the bus over onto the shoulder of the road.
“The adults did a superb job–they did an unbelievably fast evacuation,” said Wynne. “The bus was smoking but they had the kids off the bus before the fire even started.”
The exceptional children bus is based out of Chocowinity Middle School, but is shared by several Beaufort County Schools. The bus’ occupants evacuated to a point about 800 feet away from the burning vehicle as Washington Police and Washington Fire-Rescue-EMS responded to the scene to find the bus engulfed in flames. The fire shut down Highland Road for close to two hours.
According to Wynne, a bus fire of this severity has not occurred in the 15 years of his tenure and there was no immediate indication of the origin of the fire. Recently, N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s School Transportation section asked all local school system transportation departments to perform special inspections on Thomas Built Buses received between summer of 1998 through 1999, after a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus carrying 6 students caught fire. Exposed wiring found in three Beaufort County Schools buses during those inspections was corrected immediately.
Wynne explained that the bus that caught fire is of different make and manufacturer than the buses previously identified as having potential hazardous wiring and that a team of inspectors from the state would be investigating possible causes of Monday’s fire. A forty-two point inspection is performed on all Beaufort County School buses by technicians every 30 days, according to Wynne.