Investigation continues into Sarasota school bus fire - WFLA News Channel 8

Investigation continues into Sarasota school bus fire

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SARASOTA COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Sarasota school officials still don't know what caused a bus to catch fire Wednesday afternoon.

A bus carrying a driver and a school employee caught fire shortly after smoke was spotted on board.

No one was injured.

On Thursday, school officials and the manufacturer looked at the wreckage to investigate the fire.

The bus had been in service since 1999, and was slated to be retired and sold next year.

While firefighters were working the blaze on Wednesday, I-75 traffic near Sarasota came to a crawl.

A charred, smoldering shell was all that was left of the school bus.

Sarasota County Schools Transportation Director Ellery Girard said, "The driver called and said she could smell what she thought was a plastic smell."

A service crew was dispatched.

"On route with the service crew, the bus started to smoke and caught on fire," said Girard.

Minutes later, the bus was consumed in a blaze. No one was injured.

Girard said, "It was just kind of surprising."

Girard had never seen anything like it, and he still doesn't know how it happened.

"There's not a lot of wiring and stuff left, but we are examining it," said Girard.

The bus has been in service since 1999, and was slated to be sold next year. A representative from the manufacturer came to Sarasota to look at it.

Girard said, "We have no idea really what had caused the fire so we're just checking everything on all of our buses just to make sure it doesn't happen again."

If it does happen again, drivers are ready. Coincidentally enough, just a few weeks ago all drivers were trained on how to handle fires onboard.

Sarasota county school bus drivers also go through evacuation drills all summer long, to make sure they know how to get children out of harm's way.

Girard said, "We were not anticipating this, but we do train this."

When buses are at the lot, they are inspected each morning and afternoon, but that's not all.

Every 30 days, each bus in the fleet is brought into a garage like this one where it goes through a very thorough inspection.

Girard said last month's inspection of this bus turned up nothing alarming.

"It seemed something [the fire was] very, very random," said Girard.

So they're going to keep closely inspecting each bus, doing all they can to keep these machines in the best shape possible.

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