Mystery surrounds CMS school bus fire. Team of experts called in to help find cause.

Mystery surrounds CMS school bus fire. Team of experts called in to help find cause.

CHARLOTTE, NC (Joe Marusak/The Charlotte Observer) - Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools has called in experts from the state and Charlotte Fire Department to help find the cause of a school bus fire on Thursday afternoon.

Sixteen South Mecklenburg High School students and a bus driver were safely evacuated after their bus No. 364 caught fire at about 3:30 p.m. near the intersection of Eastway Drive and Central Avenue, CMS said.

Medic reported treating one patient for minor injuries from smoke inhalation and taking the person to Carolinas Medical Center.

The front of the bus appeared to be heavily damaged, Observer news partner WBTV reported.

CMS Transportation maintenance staff completed a routine 30-day inspection of the bus on Oct. 6, and the bus was returned to service after routine maintenance services were performed, CMS said Friday.

All CMS buses undergo a complete annual maintenance review, are required to be inspected every 30 days and are pulled from service for repairs or replacements identified by the inspection, according to CMS.

The "multi-party" investigation includes assistance from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction's school bus transportation division and a fire inspector from the Charlotte Fire Department, officials said.

CMS credited the bus driver's "quick response" to the fire. "While in transit, the driver smelled smoke, immediately stopped the bus, evacuated all students safely and notified emergency services," CMS said.

"As with any incident related to the safety and welfare of CMS students and staff, Thursday's fire on board school bus No. 364 is of major concern for the district," CMS said in a statement Friday. "We are grateful that the bus driver and the 16 students on board responded quickly, were unharmed, and returned to their homes and families safely."