Schools use same bus model that caught fire

February 14, 2012 2:48:54 PM PST
Hundreds of the same model - and model year - of school bus that burst into flames in Charlotte last week are used in the Triangle area, the I-Team has learned.

Video of the fire showed the 1998 FS-65 Freightliner made by Thomas Built of High Point fully engulfed in flames. The bus driver was credited with calmly getting all the students on board off safely.

The I-Team found the federal government investigated the same school bus model for potential fire hazards. More than 33,000 school buses - which included the FS-65 models from 2006-2011 - were recalled last year.

Investigators said the problem was a defect in a fuse holder that could potentially cause flame or smoke.

But the bus in charlotte was not included in the recall because it was made in 1998.

Now, the Washington based Center for Auto Safety is pushing for a nationwide investigation.

"Fortunately, the kids had gotten off, but what goes through my mind is that every school bus is flammable and if you have an ignition source in them, those things can go up in flames and the average parent just doesn't know it," offered Clarence Ditlow with the Center for Auto Safety.

The cause of the Charlotte fire is still under investigation. Thomas Built told ABC11 in a statement it's working closely with local officials on the case.

"Thomas Built Buses designs and manufactures school buses with numerous, proven safety features, and views the safety of school bus passengers and drivers as its highest priority," it said in a statement.

North Carolina has nearly 400 of the same model bus on the road. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction - which monitors bus maintenance - said it has had no other fires in buses made in 1998.

It said its entire fleet is checked every 30 days.

A preventative maintenance report for the Charlotte bus obtained by the I-Team showed it was checked just two weeks ago and no potential fire hazards were found.

DPI said it will wait for the report on the fire before deciding to take any buses off the road.

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