Fire Chars West Michigan School Bus, Kids Escape

Posted at 10:23 PM, Nov 20, 2013
and last updated 2013-11-20 22:45:09-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- Terrifying images surfaced Wednesday after a school bus erupted in flames around 7 a.m. outside the Forest Hills Aquatic Center.

Everyone made it off the bus safely, and now parents across West Michigan are asking what happened.

Michigan State Police use a 30 page manual to inspect every school bus in the state each year.  It walks through every part of the bus, each area either passes inspection or is given a yellow or red condition.

Yellow means unsatisfactory, and schools are given 60 days to repair the issue.  Red condition means buses are unsafe and must be fixed before the bus is used again.

This year 10 of the 79 buses at Forest Hills Public Schools were red, and were fixed before being allowed back on the road again.

“Well, we were about to get on the bus and it`s dripping hot with lava kind of,” Seventh grader Nick Pummill said.

He stood beside the Forest Hills School Bus when the driver realized something was very wrong.

Nick took video of the bus as the flames grew bigger, engulfing more of the bus that just minutes before held more than 20 students.  He says he didn’t know if it would explode or not.

The bus, a 2005 Thomas Built Saf-T-Liner C2, has had 11 recalls since 2007, two that could spark a fire.

Darryl Hofstra, Supervisor of Transportation at Forest Hills Public Schools says the school has nine more of these buses.

Hofstra says they’re taking precautionary measures and removing all of the same buses from service until they determine the outcome of this investigation.

The transportation supervisor assures us all recalls have been completed, most by a certified dealer, others by mechanics with very specific instructions from the manufacturer.

Hofstra says the driver did everything right, but as parents view the charred bud remains they’re left questioning what’s being done to keep their kids safe at school and on the bus.

“All of those procedures and all of that training are very important in the process. Clearly that paid off well,” Hofstra said.

The fire investigator hasn’t made a determination on the cause yet, though the transportation supervisor says they do believe an electrical issue sparked the fire.

The bus manufacturer will be in town to check out the bus on Thursday.