CHARLOTTE, N.C. – More than a dozen Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools students are recovering from a scary situation after their school bus caught fire Thursday.
The 17 high schoolers on board had seconds to escape as flames engulfed the engine. Now, parents are pressing the school district about school bus inspections and whether this close call could have been avoided.
Now, CMS is trying to figure out what caused the inferno on bus 364.
The bus was carrying 16 students from South Mecklenburg High School along Dunlavin Way in east Charlotte when all of a sudden terror took over.
“The windows were exploding,” said one passenger on the bus.
School districts leaders say safety is their top priority. Thankfully, everyone on the bus was able to escape without major injuries other than possible smoke inhalation.
“We could smell smoke, so I went inside and put on a smoke mask,” a 10-year-old witness recalled.
CMS has launched an internal investigation and will review the bus’s inspection and maintenance records. NBC Charlotte requested those records, but CMS has not yet responded to that request.
“It’s a big concern because we don’t feel safe as parents, but the kids on the bus,” CMS parent Edilma Luna said.
A CMS school bus fire in 2012 was caused by old, worn-out wiring, which prompted state leaders to require thorough inspections of older buses. CMS leaders have not responded to questions about the age of the bus involved in Thursday’s incident.
The 2016-17 school bus report shows CMS’s inspection score nearly doubled from the year before. That’s a bad sign — the higher the score, the more problems were discovered. During that inspection, 10 percent of the 104 buses that were checked out had to be immediately removed from service until the repairs were made.
All of the issues were resolved, and some attributed the poor score to a new inspector coming on board. But after Thursday’s fire, parents have some serious concerns and questions for the district.