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School bus that caught fire Sept. 18 in eastern P.E.I. was newly inspected

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A school bus caught fire Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019, near Central Kings, P.E.I. No children were on the bus at the time. - SaltWire file photo
CENTRAL KINGS, P.E.I. —

A school bus that caught fire Wednesday morning in eastern P.E.I. had two good years left, said the French Language School Board.

The driver had just started for the day and had not picked up any students when he felt the bus lose power and noticed a bit of smoke coming out of the tailpipe on Route 4 near Central Kings. 

He pulled over and got out to see what the matter was. At the same time, he called the school bus depot to let them know what was happening and to request a substitute for the route.

While he was circling the bus, black smoke engulfed the engine and it caught fire.

The driver hung up with the depot and called 911, said Brad Samson, acting superintendent with the French Language School Board.

Firefighters got the call around 7:15 a.m., said Central Kings Fire Department Chief Billy Holland.

“When we got there the whole bus was basically in flames,” said Holland.

They found out en route that there was no one on the bus. Holland said, once he got to the scene, he determined there was little risk to the surroundings, the bus was not close to any buildings or forest.

Six firefighters extinguished the blaze.

“Everything went pretty well.”

Samson said, from a safety point of view, they were fortunate that no children were involved and the driver was outside the vehicle. 

It’s still too early to speculate on the cause, he said.

The department of transportation, infrastructure and energy is trying to determine whether this issue could be common to other buses in the fleet.

"We have pulled the work orders which showed the bus had been through routine maintenance and no indication of any problems. The bus was fully inspected in July 2019. We have been in contact with our Atlantic counterparts to see if there have been any similar incidents in their jurisdictions and we are supporting the provincial fire marshal's office in their investigation," said Stephen Szwarc, director of highway maintenance.

The bus was a 2009 International. At 10 years old, it had two years of service life left on a regular route, and another two years after that as a substitute bus.

In 2007, the board inventoried the fleet and capped the service life after finding some buses were more than 20 years old.

“It wasn’t brand-new, but technically it wasn’t old,” said Samson.

A new school bus costs around $100,000.


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