DUNCAN, S.C. (WSPA) – Students on board a school bus are safe after it caught fire Tuesday morning, according to school officials.
The bus caught fire on West Main Street in Duncan.
Students were headed to Duncan Elementary, Beech Springs Intermediate and Byrnes High School at the time, said Melissa Robinette with Spartanburg County School District 5.
Two students sitting at the back of the bus saw the smoke and told the driver. Robinette said the driver did as she was trained to do and immediately got the 56 students off the bus and radioed the transportation office to call 9-1-1.
All the students got off safely with the bus driver’s help, and firefighters were soon on the scene, Robinette said.
Staff is now looking into what caused the fire.
“We are so proud of our bus driver,” said Superintendent Scott Turner. “She did exactly what she was trained to do. She was calm. She kept the students calm. She made sure they were safe. They were her first priority. She’s our hero today.”
The district notified all parents of students who were on the bus.
Officials from the S.C. Department of Education are investigating.
We’re told cameras on the bus burned and they are trying to recover any video that wasn’t destroyed.
Duncan Fire Chief Barry Frost says they don’t have a cause, but they are looking in the passenger area of the the bus where there is heater mounted under a seat.
Robinette says there have been questions about this line of 1995 buses, but the bus that caught fire was inspected and cleared in the summer by the state.
The state reports these types of buses have had “bus fires and dangerous overheating (collectively called ‘thermal events’).”
The 2016 report says these have increased over the years.
They say there was a spike in 2004–07. Cabling changes were made to reduce the risk of overheating or fire.
Since 2012, but the thermal events are on the rise again, according to the report.
The inspections showed that 69.4 percent of thermal events involved wiring/electrical and turbocharger issues.
76 percent of the thermal issue were with the 1995 buses, according to the report.
Robinette says depending on what the investigation finds, it would be the state that would decide whether to re-inspect other buses that had already been cleared.
There currently have 8 buses that fall under that particular line, according to Robinette.
Ryan Brown with the Office of Communications and Govt. Affairs says 33% of the district’s buses are 21+ years old.
1280 of the buses in the state are the 1995/96 buses, according to Brown.
After current bus orders are placed, that will leave 900 units. He says if all 900 units were relaced with a 72 passenger Type C, bus, the cost will be approximately 72.3 million. The Type D’s are more expensive, according to Brown.