Local News

Driver rescued students from burning school bus

Posted May 5, 2009 4:37 p.m. EDT
Updated May 6, 2009 1:40 p.m. EDT

— On school bus driver appreciation week, some Sampson County students are very appreciative of their bus driver.

Drive Julie Lamb quickly escorted about two dozen Union Elementary School students off her bus Monday afternoon after the vehicle caught fire.

"Honestly, I did not know the danger I was in. I was just doing my job," she said.

Lamb said she and the students smelled smoke, but she didn't see anything and her gauges all checked out. When she made her next stop and opened the door to let a student out, she said, she noticed gray smoke coming from under the bus.

She pulled off to the side of the road, and a man ran up to the bus.

"He said, 'Ma'am, your bus is on fire,'" she said.

So, Lamb and two bystanders escorted the children off the bus and down the street to safety. None of the students was injured.

"As we went down the fire started getting bigger and bigger," student Dreshawn Spearman said.

"If they didn't help us, we might have been not here," student Irvin Delpaz said.

Lamb then went back inside the bus one last time to make sure everybody was out.

"I walked back down the bus looking on the floor, making sure no one was under the seats," she said. "It was probably two or three minutes (later), and we heard an explosion and the whole bus was just gone."

Authorities said the fuel cells on the bus detonated in the fire, causing the explosion.

"I really never thought about the danger we were in," she said. "I never thought the bus was going to explode."

Sampson County Schools officials and local authorities were still trying to determine the cause of the fire Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Lamb was behind the wheel of a new bus, and her students brought her letters of thanks from their parents.

"The kids were the real heroes (on Monday). They were calm," she said.