Charleroi Area bus destroyed by fire; kids safely evacuated
A Charleroi Area school bus driver is being lauded for safely evacuating 18 students moments before their bus burst into flames Wednesday afternoon in West Pike Township.
No one was injured and firefighters from Bentleyville and Fallowfield Township were able to quickly extinguish the blaze.
But Eva Harris, 50, of Fallowfield Township, said she had little time to react after pulling over her bus along Huber Road. Harris said she was losing power coming up a hill and parked near Bentleyville Wesleyan Church when she realized it was not a maintenance problem.
“I'm thinking I'm going to call the garage and have them send me another bus … when the front end started smoking and the smell was coming through the shifter,” Harris said. “I didn't know if it was going up in flames so my first thought was, ‘Get the kids out and do it fast!'”
Harris directed 17 elementary students and one high school student one-by-one out the front door and to the nearby church located near the border of Fallowfield and West Pike Run townships. Most of the kids were seated near the front of the bus, Harris said.
“I told them, ‘OK. There's probably a fire. You know what to do,' and they did,” said Harris, who then grabbed the two-way radio and announced “Bus fire on Huber Road!”
“It was basically a the-quicker-the-better kind of thing. The kids knew exactly what to do and they did it.”
While the bus garage contacted fire authorities, Harris herded the children toward the church.
“I tried to calm them down and I looked up at the bus and started seeing flames come from underneath,” she said. “I told them, ‘C'mon we're going behind the church.' I didn't know if something was going to explode and I basically didn't want the kids to see it.”
After the fire was extinguished, a new bus arrived, along with Charleroi Area Superintendent Dr. Brad Ferko and transportation director Keith Boord.
One of the mothers nearby posted the incident on Facebook and most of the kids were cleared to leave with their parents, Harris said. Ferko rode back with the remaining students on the new bus.
Students participate in bus fire drills twice a year per state law and they put that practice to good use Wednesday, Ferko said.
“She (Harris) was not only able to get the kids off the bus, but did so calmly and took them behind the church so they would not see the bus burning,” Ferko said. “She did an excellent job and should be credited for her fast action. She is a hero.”
Boord said the bus is a total loss, and although a cause has not been determined, he suspected it to be electrical in nature.
“Eva did one heck of a job getting the kids off quickly and safely,” Boord said. “Everyone is to be commended.”
Harris said she was still a bit shaken Wednesday night after seeing pictures of the charred bus posted on Facebook. Harris, who had two children attend Charleroi Area schools, said she thinks any bus driver would've reacted the same way.
“I'm mainly worried about the kids, I just hope they're okay from going through this today,” she said. “At least I know they're OK physically … I'm very proud of my kids and I'm glad they're all safe and sound.”
Bentleyville fire Chief Ron Sicchitano Sr. was unavailable for comment Wednesday evening.
Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or 724-684-2635.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Christmas Cheer Club initiative benefits needy Mon Valley kids
- West Brownsville mother, daughter collaborate on children’s tale
- Mon Valley Hose and Fitting opens
- Accounting career adds up for Fallowfield native
- Century-old Christmas tradition catching on in Mon Valley
- No need to eat alone on Thanksgiving in Mon Valley
- For some, pathway to Thanksgiving often bumpy
- Rostraver woman collecting blankets for homeless vets