ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - The Orange County School District is escalating inspections of more than 100 buses after a school bus caught fire in Apopka on Tuesday.
9 Investigates learned 30 students from Piedmont Lakes Middle School were on the bus just minutes before the fire.
The driver worked to quickly evacuate the students when a passerby alerted him to smoke coming from the bus.
District officials said buses are inspected every 30 days, which is mandated by the state.
The bus from Tuesday’s fire is a 2009 International CE, manufactured by Navistar. District officials said it’s seven years old, and the average age of its fleet is six years old.
9 Investigates learned the 2009 model was part of a recall for issues related to the brakes. However, district leaders said the version in its fleet was not part of that recall. Orange County Public School’s transportation director Bill Wen said there was nothing in the recall that would indicate a fire hazard.
“It's important to understand that the 2009 model year, every state has different specifications what can be used in the state or not,” Wen said.
Wen said the driver is a 15-year veteran. He pulled over the bus as soon as the passerby alerted him to the smoke.
Wen said the 107 buses from the same model year are going through escalated inspections and will remain in service while rotating in and out during the inspection process.
“We're going to pay close attention to what's under the hood where this fire initiated to see if there's anything that could cause a fire, (including) loose wire, insulation is gone, or a loose hose,” Wen said.
Wen put no timeline on the investigation into the case. He said there have not been other incidents like Tuesday's, but another Orange County school bus caught fire less than a year ago near Rosemont Elementary School. Dozens of children were rushed from the bus before the fire caused extreme damage to the back of the bus.
9 Investigates also saw fire damage on another bus Wednesday at the bus depot.
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