Update: School bus catches fire

Update: School bus catches fire

No one injured

By Heather Michon, correspondent

The school year got off to a dramatic start as a Fluvanna County school bus caught fire near the junction of Route 15 and Union Mills Road Thursday (Aug. 9) at around 8 a.m. Everyone walked away uninjured.

Fluvanna County Public Schools Superintendent Chuck Winkler said in an email that there were 34 children, aged 5-8, aboard the #9 bus at the time of the fire.

Driver Terry Carter immediately evacuated the children and led them to the safety of the road shoulder, some distance from the bus.

According to a press release from the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office (FCSO), the emergency call was received at around 7:48 a.m. Palmyra Fire Co. #1 and FCSO deputies arrived within minutes. Route 15 was briefly closed to traffic while the crews worked to extinguish the blaze.

The children were placed on another vehicle and taken away from the scene. “All 34 arrived [at] Central [Elementary] at 8:25, safe and sound,” said Winkler.

“Mr. Carter, along with a few other community members on the scene, did an outstanding job,” he added. “I am sincerely grateful that they were there to help our children.” He was also thankful for the assistance of first responders and law enforcement.

The cause of the fire is now under investigation.

Virginia Price said on social media Thursday that she noticed the strong smell of fuel as she was putting her second-grader on the bus near Troy at around 7:30 a.m. She also noticed a puddle of fluid as the bus pulled away.

She was sufficiently worried to call the school transportation department at around 7:35 a.m. to tell them what she had seen. In a text, she said they had told her they would pass the information along.

Moments later, she saw the first social media posts about a school bus on fire. “My heart dropped,” she said. “I just had that gut feeling it was my son’s bus.”

Around this time, her daughter’s bus pulled up, and the driver confirmed the news. She assured Price that all the children on the bus were safe.

On social media, a former school bus driver named Wendy Mayo said buses are inspected by their drivers before each route, but as with any vehicle, things can just break without warning.

“I can only even imagine what is going through the bus driver’s mind,” she said. “When we had our training, we had our bus filled with dummies and smoke and were trained on how to handle situations like that, getting them off in a timely manner…and even knowing it was practice, it was scary.”

Anyone with information on the fire is asked to call Capt. Von Hill at the Fluvanna County Sheriff’s Office at 434-589-8211.

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