HIXSON, TN. (WRCB) -- An engine issue likely led to the school bus fire that injured one student and left dozens of others stranded Monday afternoon. Channel 3 is learning more about what sparked the fire, as school officials praise the bus driver and a group of quick-thinking students.
"They need to know at all times it can happen," says Katrina Gravitte, principal of Daisy Elementary School. Principal Katrina Gravitte says Daisy Elementary students are learning about fire safety, knowledge they put to use when their bus caught fire. "I heard a backfire," says Kaity Harvey, a witness. "There were flames coming out from under the bus," Chris Harvey says. "By the time I got over here it was just all smoke." Kaity and Chris Harvey live on Daisy Dallas Road, just a few houses down from where the bus stopped and the students evacuated. "Probably just backfired and caught on fire, that's what it looks like," Chris says. School transportation officials say part of the engine came apart, and leaking oil sparked the fire that filled the bus with smoke. Two minutes after residents called 911, the Dallas Bay Volunteer Fire Department arrived. By then the bus driver had all 34 students out of the bus and in a nearby yard. One student was injured. "No injuries were fire-related," says Janice Atkinson with the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. "It was just from jumping out the rear of the bus, when they were filing out." That child was picked up by her mother and taken to the hospital. Gravitte rushed to the scene, as staff stayed at the school calling other parents. "They did send another bus, so the kids could finish their route and go ahead and get home," Gravitte says. Gravitte says the ordeal delayed students by about half an hour. She says the outcome could have been a lot worse, if it wasn't for a quick thinking bus driver and well trained students. "Our students and our bus driver were phenomenal, and I cannot be more appreciative," Gravitte says.
School transportation officials say the bus received routine maintenance a few weeks ago, and showed no sign of an engine issue.
With thousands more vehicles on the roads in late August to view the Total Solar Eclipse, TDOT is making preparations.
900 Whitehall Road
Chattanooga, TN 37405
WRCB Jobs EEO | FCC Public Files