MAPLEWOOD, Minn. — A school bus driver here is being credited for safely evacuating students from his school bus on Monday before it caught fire, a district official said.
The bus driver was transporting Richfield Middle School’s seventh grade boys basketball team to a game in Maplewood at about 3:30 p.m., according to a statement from Steven Unowsky, the superintendent for Richfield Public Schools. Unowsky said the driver “smelled smoke and saw smoke coming through the bus vents” before he was able to safely pull the bus over and evacuate all of the students on board.
Video footage from a Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) traffic camera, posted on Twitter by Twin Cities Traffic, shows students outside of the bus as it is consumed by smoke and flames. (Watch the video below.)
A second school bus was dispatched to the scene to return the students and staff to Richfield Middle School, where students were met by their families, Unowsky said in the statement.
“We are extremely grateful that there were no injuries and that our driver was able to quickly and calmly evacuate students,” he added. “His swift and decisive actions ensured students and staff were safe.”
Dan Kretsinger, the district’s director of facilities and transportation, also said that the driver has been with the district for 18 years and is well known throughout the school community.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation by the Minnesota State Patrol. Unowsky said that the bus involved in the fire was four years old and that all of the district’s buses recently passed annual inspections by the State Patrol in December.
School bus fire. All passengers appear to be safe. NB 494 at Carver Ave. in Woodbury. Avoid this area. NB 494 closed. pic.twitter.com/604JxB4cv4— Twin Cities Traffic (@TwinCities511) January 13, 2020