Students describe bus fire on I-210 Bridge - KPLC 7 News, Lake Charles, Louisiana

Students describe bus fire on I-210 Bridge

By Lee Peck - bio | email

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - It was shortly after 11 o'clock Sunday morning that a bus load of middle school students from Houston were running down the I-210 bridge for safety after their bus caught on fir

"At first we were driving up and all of a sudden I felt the bus start shaking and we started to slant. I could feel it and then I then I could smell the rubber burning," said Gilbert Perez, 7th grader. 

"We heard a pop and the bus started rumbling," said Anthony Foote, 8th grader.  

"Tire rubber kept coming off and we thought we were on a bumpy road," said Matthew Truitt, 6th grader.  

They were among some 30 students and chaperones from Houston's Pershing Middle School on their way back from competing in a band competition in Disney World.

Students recall it all happened real fast. The bus driver immediately ordered everyone to evacuate as he followed behind with a fire extinguisher.

"He tried to put it out but the wind with the force it kept flames coming up," recalled Truitt. 

As flames engulfed the bus, a large plume of black smoke could be seen from miles away as traffic began to back up on the Interstate. To escape the smoke and fiery danger, students ran down the bridge to safety.

"It was scary because for me it was scary because I am afraid of heights so I started to just sit down and try to breathe, but everybody else turned out okay. We were lucky that we got out because somebody could have gotten really hurt," said Perez.  

Westlake fire fighters would finish the job of putting the blaze out. A charred frame of what once was a charter bus remained. Students say everything left on the bus was a total loss, including their instruments. And to add insult to injury - one of their first place competition trophies also gone. But Anthony Foote did manage to get a few things.

"Before we got off... I went and grabbed my shoes and my I-Pod. Because I didn't know that it was on fire so I just grabbed some stuff so I could pass the time," said Foote.  

They didn't have pass much time, a second bus of fellow students wasn't far behind. Everyone hopped aboard and Calcasieu Sheriff's deputies escorted them all to the Sheriff's Office until another bus could arrive.

"Fortunately Poepeye's fed all of them and took good care of them. We had some cokes and water here. I know it's Mother's Day and I'm sure a lot of mommas in Houston, Texas are very glad that their children are okay today and headed back home safely," said Sheriff Tony Mancuso.  

State Police say the accident remains under investigation. Also we're told a DOTD inspector came out to inspect the bridge for any damage from the fire.

Copyright 2009 KPLC. All rights reserved.

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