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District transportation official: school bus fire not the first one

Published: Oct. 20, 2016 at 3:40 AM EDT|Updated: Oct. 20, 2016 at 10:11 AM EDT
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LEXINGTON COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Wednesday morning was a scary time for elementary students who were on their way to school when their bus caught fire.

The bus driver was able to get all 49 students off unharmed but district officials told WIS this wasn't the first time this has happened.

Most of the school buses at Dutch Fork Elementary are over 20 years old and have hundreds of thousands of miles on them. David Weissman, the Director of Transportation for Lexington-Richland School District 5, said they get a lot of use compared to the number of fires but still, they are known to happen more often than any parent or school district would like.

On Wednesday, all of the students on the bus were able to get escape just moments before the bus went up in flames, but it's raising the question about why it caught fire.

RELATED: See photos of the school bus fire scene.

Weissman said the 1995 Thomas Rear Engine bus models have been under scrutiny for quite some time now.

"Unfortunately with the number of miles they put on, the vehicles have a tendency to catch fire," Weissman said. "I can recall several incidents here and around the Columbia area over the last three or four years."

He said the buses should be inspected once a year by the state Department of Education, however, there's still no word on when the last inspection was conducted.

"It happens, fortunately the drivers and students are trained to deal with something like that," Weissman said.

Officials with the school district say they prepare every student twice a year to evacuate emergency situations like the bus fire Wednesday morning.

"This is something we practice. Our bus drivers practice it as part of our training and the first week of school we practice with our students how to evacuate a bus in an emergency," Weissman said.

There are 2,500 Thomas Rear Engine buses driving across South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Weissman said South Carolina Superintendent of Education Molly Spearman continues pushing for funding to purchase new buses.

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