Nearly five dozen students escaped safely after a school bus caught fire while on the way to Duncan Elementary school in Spartanburg County Tuesday morning, according to local media reports.
The Spartanburg Herald-Journal reports 56 students were on board the bus when it started smoking on the way to Duncan Elementary School Tuesday morning. No students were injured, according to Spartanburg School District Five officials.
Following news of the fire, State Sen. Harvey Peeler, R-Cherokee took to the Senate floor Tuesday to decry the condition of the state’s school buses. “Our fleet is outdated. Our fleet has some 2,000 fire balls on wheels,” he said.
“These buses we bought in 1995, these Thomas buses we’ve been told how dangerous they are, how they’re susceptible to fire,” Peeler said. “But we still have these buses,” Peeler said. The bus that caught fire Tuesday was a Thomas bus.
South Carolina is the only state in the country which maintains its own statewide fleet of school buses. The state has had trouble replacing its aging buses. In fact, a majority of the state’s fleet are more than 15 years old. That’s significant because a 2007 state law requires the Department of Education to replace 1/15th of its buses each year. But lawmakers have not fully funded the estimate $34 million needed since the recession began impacting its budget in 2009.
The driver of the Duncan school bus helped evacuate the 56 students after the fire was spotted. Besides elementary school kids, the bus was also carrying students bound for Beech Springs Intermediate School and Byrnes High School.