A Columbia, SC, school bus driver was able to safely evacuate kindergartners from their bus before it caught fire on Monday. Richland School District 2 Chief Communications Officer Libby Roof told The State that the students were heading to Camp Discovery in Blythewood for a field trip when the driver noticed smoke and pulled the bus off the road. About 40 kindergarten students were on board at the time of the incident, which was around 10 a.m.
The driver stopped the bus at a gas station, and everyone on board was able to evacuate the bus through the emergency exits. There was a loud explosion when the driver attempted to turn off the bus, resulting in the bus then catching fire.
Roof told The State that thanks to the bus driver’s quick actions, all of the students, teachers, and adult chaperones on board got off the bus safely, and no injuries were reported. It was then added that the district “did a good job” preparing the driver and teachers for the emergency situation and getting the students away from the burning bus. A replacement bus picked up the passengers and transported them to Blythewood. The school bus is believed to be a “total loss,” and the cause of the fire has not been determined.
As SBF previously reported in January, the SC State Department of Education (DOE) confirmed that all of the 1995 and 1996 school bus models, which accounted for the majority of the state’s over 100 thermal events, were taken from school districts and sent to the state’s fleet office to be scrapped. The State DOE also announced its plans to replace the state's 432 aging buses, and its hopes that a share of the state’s Volkswagen settlement funds could help cover the costs.