There were frightening moments for some elementary school children in Wakulla County Wednesday morning as their school bus caught fire. Luckily, the bus driver smelled trouble and all 11 students on board were evacuated before the bus erupted in flames.
All fingers point to an electrical shortage near the engine, but firefighters are of course waiting on the final results of an investigation. In the meantime, parents and students are shook up, calling it a close call with a fortunate ending.
This was the scene early Wednesday morning from a witness’s camera: flames engulfed the Wakulla County school bus bound for Crawfordville Elementary School just after 8 a.m.
“You couldn't even see front of bus, flames and smoke everywhere, nothing left of front of bus,’ says witness Ronda Metcalf.
Ronda Metcalf was working at the BP on Highway 319 and Pixie Circle where the school bus makes a regular stop. School officials say when the driver arrived to pick up students, the engine stalled. She evacuated all 11 children just minutes before smoke was seen under the hood.
Parents on the scene say it was a devastating site.
Laurie Preston, a mother who witnessed the fire, says, “It's scary. I'll probably be taking her to school now, it's just scary.”
School bus officials hope she'll reconsider, saying parents should feel secure with their student's buses, admitting they too were shocked by the fire.
Pat Jones is in charge of Wakulla school bus drivers, she says Florida law requires a monthly inspection on all school buses. In fact, this very bus just left the shop.
“It was here three days ago, met the inspection, just have to wait and see what the problem is,” says Pat Jones.
As the investigation gets underway, a sigh of relief spreads through the community, a thankful feeling that everyone escaped the blaze unharmed.
Parents say the children on board were quickly taken to school and the bus driver was debriefed following the accident. A few shed some tears, but for the most part everyone appeared to be doing well.
The school bus is a total loss, but Jones says she'll get her bus driver back behind the wheel of another school bus to finish her routes, which will only last another two days because by Friday school is out for summer.