Driver of Butler County school bus that went up in flames called a hero

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Caption
Students safe after Madison school bus catches fire

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

She went back onto school bus just before it burst into flames to make sure all students had gotten off, boss says.

The first signs of potentially deadly trouble popped up as a simple overheating alert on the dash board of a Madison Schools bus that within minutes would be engulfed in flames.

The driver, who is being hailed as a hero for her clear-headed reaction, radioed in the problem with the bus engine and the dispatcher at the Butler County school district’s transportation office answered back with a possible solution but it was too late.

Already the engine was failing and smoking.

MORE: Children escape burning bus out both exits

Unable to travel more than 15 miles per hour and losing power, the driver steered the bus off the rural Middletown-Germantown Road onto the grass as gray smoke began to rise from the bus hood, said Larry Osborne, manager of transportation for Madison Schools.

On this Tuesday afternoon, more than two dozen students in grades seven through 12 were riding home.

The smoke quickly turned black and denser. The veteran driver, who has asked school officials not to identify her, told the dispatcher to call the fire department and then ordered students to get off the bus using both the front and emergency rear exit door.

She directed students to stand a safe distance from the bus and then boarded the bus again, though a strong burning smell now wafted from under the hood, signaling that flames would soon follow. She double checked among seats to make sure all students were off.

Then joining her students at a distance, they all watched as flames shot high out of the now melting metal engine hood.

A man also called at about the same time and told dispatchers, “There is a school bus on fire, like fully engulfed in flames on Middletown-Germantown Road. There are flames shooting all over the place.”

MORE: School bus fire 911 calls: ‘There are flames shooting all over the place

“It could have been a catastrophe,” said Osborne. “But the driver’s training kicked in.”

Instead of fiery deaths, the only loss was the end of one of Madison’s buses that within minutes was reduced to blackened, burnt out husk of charred metal.

“Thanks to (the driver) everything worked like clock work in an emergency situation,” said Osborne.

The investigation into the fire that destroyed the bus, which was leased from the Petermann Bus Company and in use since 2009, remains under investigation by the company, Madison Township Fire Department and school district officials said.

Madison Schools Resource Officer Kent Hall, who is also the township’s fire chief, was the first person at the fiery bus scene on Tuesday. When he arrived he didn’t know if the students were out safely.

“Heavy fire, smoke coming out of all the windows,” Hall said when asked what he saw. “Then I learned all the kids were safe on another bus.”

“I can tell you the bus driver did everything right and everyone is alive (because of that),” he said.