School bus catches fire with 40 Salisbury middle school students aboard

Published: Jun. 4, 2015 at 1:16 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 4, 2015 at 1:16 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - A Rowan-Salisbury school bus with 40 students aboard caught fire Thursday morning, according to school officials.

The Knox Middle School bus caught fire as the students were getting off. According to school officials, one student may have experienced a foot injury while exiting the bus, but he was back in class by the afternoon.

No other students were injured in the bus fire.

"I'm very pleased both with the drivers and the students," said Tim Beck, Transportation Director for Rowan-Salisbury Schools.  "The main thing is safety, that's our top priority. We do go through a certain amount of training every year with our drivers, our students are required to go through evacuation drills twice a year."

The bus driver, who is being praised by parents and school leaders, spoke briefly with WBTV after returning from the doctor.  She said that her nerves were upset, but that she was thankful that things turned out the way they did.

Officials say transmission fluid overheated, caught fire and burned out.

School officials say the bus was a 1994 Vista school bus and is a spare that was being used while the normal route school bus was being serviced. Even though the bus is 21 years old, it is listed as a "spare" and is regularly maintained.

WBTV learned that the bus was last inspected one week ago on May 28.  No issues were found with the bus at that time.

School bus drivers go through training for evacuation and students are required by law to take part in two evacuation drills per year, school officials said, in the first 10 days of the first and second semesters.

Transportation Director Beck said that he is very proud of the bus driver and students because "they knew what to do."

"Mechanical failures do happen, no matter how much we try to prevent them," Beck added.  "But like I said, the main thing is that the training paid off, obviously today, so that's proof to me that the system is working."

Notifications were sent to parents and school administrators.

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