Emotional reunions after school bus fire

-service operator at a loss over cause

It was an emotional scene when some of the students from the Cotton Tree Primary who escaped injuries from a burning bus on Thursday evening, arrived home and reunited with their worried parents.

The parents hugged their children and cried and thanked the teachers for bringing them home safely. They did not even care that their children’s bags and other possessions were destroyed in the fire.

The parents, according to Regional Vice-chairman Rion Peters who lives at Cotton Tree, were uneasy after receiving “misinformation” that their children were badly burnt and were at the hospital.

He said he had to calm the parents who were waiting anxiously in groups. He was also in contact with the buses that were transporting them home and kept updating the parents.

The 50 West Berbice students and four teachers narrowly escaped injuries from the burning bus that they had just exited and are still deeply traumatised. They are also afraid to go back on school tours.

They were returning home around 5:45 pm on Thursday evening from a school tour in Georgetown when the incident occurred at Mahaica. They were rescued by other tour buses that were passing at the same time.

The teachers lost their handbags that contained money, cell phones, cameras and other items.

 Smoke

Sources told Stabroek News that smoke was detected coming from the bus before everyone heard a loud “hissing sound.” This created panic among the students and they started to scream.

The driver immediately pulled in the corner and instructed everyone to “get off the bus!” But the door was stuck, creating further terror. The driver continued to “beat the door” until it was opened.

As the students and teachers were trying to escape to safety some fell in the process and suffered bruises. The teachers had even tried to break open the window to get the children out of harm’s way.

They were trying to move the children far away from the bus and when they looked back they saw the big blaze, which caused the terrified students to scream even more.

Reports are that one of the teachers who had inhaled a lot of smoke, like the others, collapsed and had to be taken to the Mahaicony Hospital for treatment.

 Bus service

Contacted, owner of the bus service, Roy Hercules told Stabroek News that he is still wondering what caused the bus to go up in flames.

He had been operating the business for 25 years and “lots of schools use the service. I would not want to send a bus on tours with kids that had a problem.” He said he services his buses often.

Hercules said the only thing he can come up with is that a “rat probably nipped a wire. This can happen to any vehicle.”

He also ruled out that the bus had overheated but noted that the bus was “too badly burnt for me to trace what happened.” The driver related to him that there was no problem with the bus all day.

The businessman said he was “happy that nothing happened to anyone. Put aside the bus, what is important is people’s lives.” He said the driver deserves credit for acting fast and also gave praise to God.

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