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Charlotte School Bus Fire Draws National Attention


Driver: Lindora Richardson

Lindora Richardson was driving Charlotte-Mecklenburg school bus 295 on Feb. 8 when she noticed smoke rising from under the dash area. The smoke eventually turned into a raging fire, but she had already gotten the kids off the bus in time. “If I had basically sat there instead of getting the kids up and off the bus, it could have ended a lot different than it did,” she said. As a mother, Richardson said her maternal instincts kicked in, and she just wanted the kids to get home safely, which motivated her to “keep a cool head” under pressure. “Basically I was just doing the route for that day, and noticing it was like an odor on the bus when I was driving so I stopped to inspect the smell and see where it was coming from,” she said. “Then I saw smoke coming from underneath the steering column, and at that moment I decided to go ahead and ask the kids to move to the back of the bus so they wouldn’t get any smoke inhalation.“ After that, I shut down the bus and the smoke got worse, and I decided to get the kids off the bus at that moment, to get the kids to safety.”

Charlotte Fire Chief Jon Hannan presented a certificate on Monday morning at Chantilly Montessori School to Richardson for her quick response.
  “In a matter of moments, she took the correct steps that resulted in six children and herself being safe,” Hannan said in a statement. “Every day firefighters respond to these incidents as trained, and we are grateful that she responded almost immediately like she was trained like a firefighter. Mrs. Richardson in her position of smelling something, seeing smoke, her immediate steps of stopping, getting everybody off the bus and away from a dangerous situation made a difference. You’d be amazed at how fast a smoky fire can rage out of control, so when you see smoke or have a fire, do what she did: get out, stay out, and then call 911.”

Carol Stamper, Executive Director of Transportation at CMS notes "A well trained driver is one who transports students safely every day without incidence within his/her control. An exceptionally well trained driver is one who takes charge, reacts appropriately and maintains a safe environment in those rare circumstances that may place the students and/or himself/herself in harm's way."

National Attention

 
The national news media quickly picked up the story due to the dramatic video of the fire. Media interviews and correspondence regarding the bus fire and her heroic actions include: The Charlotte Observer, Several Charlotte TV Stations, HLN, CNN, ABC National Nightly News with Diane Sawyer, National Pupil Transportation Websites and various Newsletters, and she was flown to California for an interview on “The Doctors” TV Show.
Per Congressional representative Sue Myrick’s request, she was nominated for the 2012 Medal of Honor Society’s Civilian Award-Citizen Service Before Self Honors.

DPI & Others Respond

On February 17th DPI Transportation Services staff consisting of Derek Graham, Craig Warren, Keith Whitley, and Charles Ball visited the site where bus #295 was parked to perform a detailed investigation. CMS bus garage employees, Charlotte fire Investigators, and Carolina Thomas employees collaborated to quickly come to the conclusion of the source of the fire. A wiring harness located behind a water valve forward of the firewall appears to have worn through due to friction and heat causing a direct short of a grid heater power cable.


Arrow indicates point of ignition of fire
 
The national news media quickly picked up the story due to the dramatic video of the fire. Media interviews and correspondence regarding the bus fire and her heroic actions include: The Charlotte Observer, Several Charlotte TV Stations, HLN, CNN, ABC National Nightly News with Diane Sawyer, National Pupil Transportation Websites and various Newsletters, and she was flown to California for an interview on “The Doctors” TV Show.
Per Congressional representative Sue Myrick’s request, she was nominated for the 2012 Medal of Honor Society’s Civilian Award-Citizen Service Before Self Honors.

Images of the Fire Damage


Interior Image
 

Interior Image

Interior Image
 

The unburned plastic parts under the hood clearly indicate the fire was mainly in the interior area

A repair bulletin was issued by Carolina Thomas on 02-28-12 to recommend a corrective action on all FS65 type buses with Caterpillar engines. The link to the repair is www.carolinathomas.com/CarolinaThomasBusBuzz.aspx

DPI message # 575 advised all LEA’s to inspect their FS65 fleets for similar situations in order to avoid a repeat of the Charlotte fire.

Derek Graham notes “We are thankful this event did not result in any injuries but will use this occurrence as a teaching tool for all of our technicians, drivers, and others to be reminded of- 1) fire prevention through safety inspection, 2) the need for passenger fire drill exit training on all school buses across the state.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 
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