Local News

Church Group Makes Unexpected Stop In Fayetteville After Bus Fire

Posted July 3, 2006

— A church-bus fire forced part of Interstate 95 to close Sunday afternoon and caused traffic delays for more than an hour.

The fire started in the engine compartment of the St. Matthews Baptist Church bus and spread to the rubber on the vehicle's back right tire and then through the passenger section of the bus.

"A motorist coming from behind us spotted it, pulled over to the side and warned us," said the Rev. George Gay. "We immediately pulled over to the side and started evacuating the bus. By the time we got everyone off the bus, flames were too high to do anything else."

Both southbound lanes of I-95 in Harnett County near the Cumberland County line were closed at about 3 p.m. as crews worked to extinguish the fire. As a result, traffic had to be diverted near mile marker 70. Onlooker traffic in I-95's northbound lanes also caused backups for miles.

None of the bus's 37 passengers -- both adults and children -- were injured; neither was their luggage.

"It was the hand of God, no doubt about it," Gay said.

The group, from Connecticut, was headed to Jacksonville, Fla., for a church conference. Members will spend the night at a Fayetteville hotel before heading to their final destination in a new bus Monday morning.


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