Bristol students reflect on bus fire - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Bristol students reflect on bus fire

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Middle school students in Bristol had quite a scare Wednesday. Their school bus went up in flames, but all the students made it out of the bus safely and it was an experience they will never forget.

"The day felt pretty normal," said Lydia Pitts eighth-grader.

But that didn't last long.

"There's a fire on my bus repeat there’s a fire on my bus," said Pitts.

Pitts and Aidan May were traveling with the rest of their middle school track team from Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School to a meet in Winooski when their bus went up in flames.

"Before we even went up the hill, you could smell something. Kind of like paint or something. We thought it was just the car in front of us but then we looked up and there wasn't a car in front of us," said May, eighth-grader.

The driver pulled the bus over just south of Hinesburg Village after sensing there was something wrong with the engine. Then came a quick decision that ultimately saved the students’ lives.

Around 35 to 40 students were evacuated out of the back door of the bus, just like they had practiced in drills.

"We were walking back and the bus had already started to kind of fill up with smoke, it was a little bit hard to breathe," said May.

The students say they were instructed to stay calm and leave all of their belongings on the bus. For some that was the hardest part. They lost school work, cell phones and all of their track equipment.

"A lot of people were really upset by their belongings," said Pitts.

But the Department of Motor Vehicles, which conducts bus driver training for the state, says that's proper protocol.

"The other thing is the driver has to make sure students don't bring their belongings with them because it can hinder, they can get caught up on things and then hinder evacuation where a student may get hurt," said Patrick McManamon, transportation program specialist.

McManamon says they train around 600 bus drivers a year and accidents are rare.

"The driver, like I said, it was a perfect case of what they were supposed to do," said McManamon.

In this case the students say they were able to get off the bus before they were in any real danger, but what they saw after the fire was put out will stick with them.

"As you kept on looking at it you'd just notice things that were worse and worse like the front headlights had melted and then when we were walking back I could see some of my friend’s backpacks or what remained of them and it was kind of shocking," said May.

The bus company, Bet-Cha, released a statement saying that they are working with law enforcement to figure out the exact cause of the fire, but they are proud of their bus driver for following procedure and getting all the students off safely. In an ironic turn of events, according to the school, another bus broke down in the exact same spot the very next day. Again, no students were hurt.

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