ROOSEVELT, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — There were tense moments on Long Island Monday morning, as rescuers responded a bus with several developmentally disabled adults on board that was mere minutes away from bursting into flames.
Cell phone images captured by a relative from inside his vehicle shows how quickly the blaze spread on the special needs bus after it ignited in Roosevelt.
“It just turned into this huge fire, windows shattering, flames shooting up,” neighbor Sandy Lyons said.
Lyons and her young children ran outside their home on Bennett Avenue where a half-dozen special needs adults were taking shelter on their yard, even as flames from the bus crept close to their lawn.
“I almost couldn’t breathe,” 9-year-old Nylah Lyons said. “We had our scarves around us, it was really scary.”
The special needs bus was picking up one man’s sister. The man would only confirm that his sister and the others were quickly transported to where they were headed before flames interrupted their journey — a special needs non-profit in Bethpage.
“They are here, a little bit of excitement for them,” Susan Sorrentino from Family Residences & Enterprises said.
The center’s managers say everyone on the burned out bus is fine, but they consider the driver a hero for getting everyone off once he smelled smoke.
“Anytime you see something is wrong you have to act quickly, and this bus driver did,” Sorrentino said.
Police labeled the spontaneous bus fire mechanical. It’s currently under investigation by the operator, Guardian Bus.
Guardian’s officers in Oceanside were closed Monday in Observance of Columbus Day, and most of its fleet was grounded because of the holiday for public schools.
In a statement sent to 1010 WINS’ Andrew Falzon, Guardian Director Corey Muirhead said; “First and foremost we are relieved and happy to know that no one involved in yesterday’s incident was harmed in any way.”
“We are cooperating and investigating with the proper authorities to determine the cause of the fire. All of Guardian’s buses are inspected twice a year, and comply 100% with all NYS DOT regulations. We are working jointly with NYSDOT to diagnose the cause of this incident,” the statement continued. “Yesterday shows just how important the proper hiring and training procedures bus drivers must complete before getting behind the wheel of a bus. Our Drivers ability to identify a troubling situation, remove the individuals in an emergency fashion, and keep everyone safe, is a testament to following the training he received and nothing short of heroic. We are proud to employ employees like the driver involved in yesterday’s incident, and we thank him for his bravery and ability to follow proper protocol to ensure the safety of all the individuals he was transporting. We are happy to report another vehicle arrived at the incident shortly after to continue to transport these individuals in a timely manner to their program so that they could enjoy the rest of their day.”
Developmental agency managers say the buses are routinely inspected and there were no prior problems with the bus that suddenly burst into flames.
By late afternoon, a replacement bus arrived to take the shaken passengers home after a day on the bus they’ll never forget.