ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis Public Schools student and a driver escaped their school bus after it caught fire Monday afternoon (Sept. 9).
Around 4 p.m., a woman who asked to not be identified was standing on the Grand Boulevard exit ramp from Interstate 64 when a school bus pulled up and the engine was smoking.
"Immediately, I saw something fall from underneath and it was on fire, and as soon as it hit the ground it just spread," she told Fox 2.
She said she frantically waved at the driver and yelled, “Your bus is on fire, your bus is on fire!”
According to St. Louis Fire Department Captain Leon Whitener the driver told authorities that while traveling on the interstate another car pulled up next to him, honked, and alerted the driver to the fire. Whitener said the driver immediately pulled off I-44 at the Grand Blvd. exit.
The Good Samaritan said she helped get the student safely off the bus just in time.
"Within seconds, it was up in flames," she said.
The bus was operated by First Student and had been transporting students from Mann Elementary. Whitener said the bus was headed to its last stop which is why there was only one student left.
Whitener said it appears the fire started in the engine of the bus and quickly spread through the passenger compartment. He said mechanical failures are not uncommon.
Missouri Highway Patrol inspects school buses each year. In 2019, St. Louis City Public Schools presented 300 buses for evaluation: 277 passed inspection, 20 were considered defective, and three were put out of service.