CMS employee voices safety concerns after school bus fire

Updated: Nov. 14, 2017 at 11:19 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Tuesday's fire on a school bus marked the second time a CMS bus has caught fire in the last 30 days. In late October a bus became engulfed in flames along Dunlavin Way in east Charlotte. Students were on the bus when the fire started, but none of them were injured.

Soon after the fire happened, an employee of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools reached out to WBTV regarding the incident, speaking under anonymity out of fear of retaliation from the district.

The employee works in the CMS transportation department and has driven buses for the district in past years. The employee said he is now concerned about the safety of the school buses.

"When I heard that today my first thought is 'Okay are the kids safe? Is the driver safe.' Thank goodness there were no kids on the bus," said the employee.

The transportation worker said he questions the upkeep of the buses and thinks some of them may not be getting the proper maintenance work they need. He worries that this may be the reason some buses are catching fire.

"Parents trust us to get their kids to and from school in a safe way so to see this on TV, it makes you wonder 'how safe are my children?'" explained the CMS employee.

WBTV has done investigations about CMS buses in years past.

One investigation uncovered records showing a 12-year-old bus had a history of coolant leaks that caused its engine to start smoking just two weeks before it caught fire.

In 2016 WBTV obtained a copy of a safety audit revealing that state inspectors found dangerous defects in some CMS buses.

"I understand that the system only gets a certain amount of money to purchase new buses, but there has to be a way that we can push the state to give us more so that we can accommodate who we are transporting to and from school," said the CMS worker.

He told WBTV that he would like to see CMS get newer buses and work to figure out what is causing some of the issues that lead to potentially dangerous situations in its current fleet of buses.

"I love the company that I work for and I don't want our system to be in the media spotlight for the wrong thing. I want us to be exposed for the right things that we're doing and not the mistakes that we've made," said the transportation worker.

CMS is scheduled to have a press conference regarding bus fires Wednesday morning.

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