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August 25, 2011  |   Comments (1)   |   Post a comment

Driver praised for acting quickly before bus fire


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PLEASANT HILL, Iowa — Southeast Polk Community School District bus driver John Fothergill was praised earlier this week for safely evacuating students before his bus burst into flames.

KCCI reports that Fothergill was driving his bus on Monday afternoon when he noticed something wrong and ordered the students on board to evacuate.

Fothergill told the news source that he knew something was wrong under the hood of the bus and he planned to stop. He turned a corner and shut the bus off and then shortly thereafter, flames came up under the engine compartment onto the windshield.

He added that the students evacuated the bus under his instruction in an orderly fashion and that it took him “not any more than a minute” to empty the bus before it was engulfed by the fire.

Firefighters arrived a short time later and put out the flames.

"We would personally like to thank John Fothergill for doing a terrific job in handling a difficult situation and keeping the safety of our students first and foremost. We would also like thank [Director of Transportation] Dan Schultz and his office staff for getting extra buses out to the site and schools as quickly as possible to assist with additional transportation needs. Dan will begin an investigation of the cause [of the fire] as early as Monday evening. We are very thankful that no one was injured," district officials said in a statement.

The charred bus appears to be a total loss, according to KCCI.


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Having worked in public school transportation for 27 years I know the importance of training school bus drivers to practice the safety procedures with our students within days of the beginning of a new school year. The sooner the students understand what to do in an emergency situation the better! A school bus fire is rare but when it happens you have to act fast. Many years ago in the early 1990's we had a contractor who took a day off. His sub-bus driver called our transportation director back then about gasoline leaking on top the bus engine. Once we arrived with a spare bus the State police pulled in and inspected the bus and the police had it towed away. It was worse than we thought. Later on in the year a school bus contractor's bus caught fire in the middle of the highway. It was another gasoline fire in the engine compartment. The children made it out with the help of passing motorist. A few years later a school bus with a stuck choke on the gas engine caught fire in a bus driver's driveway. This was before the morning route was to begin. So safety training is very important for anyone who transports school children. Veteran drivers have years of experience and you hope they never have to use their safety training yet when the need arises you are grateful the driver knew exactly what to do and the children were saved. Never think it will never happen in your school system - just practice and be prepared for when it could happen. Being a certified ASE Master Technician I appreciate contractors having to be concerned about the price of fuel and how that cuts into their profit margin but all school bus drivers are responsible to properly perform a pre-trip inspection before driving a school bus out on a route. Bus drivers are required to have a federal Commercial Drivers License which requires pre-trips to be performed. States are cutting back more and more on Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Division enforcement of safety regulations. State school b

Dan Luttrell, Bedford, IN    |    Aug 25, 2011 05:10 PM

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