Local News

Saving students from bus fire part of job for Cumberland driver

Posted September 16, 2016 4:03 p.m. EDT
Updated September 16, 2016 5:41 p.m. EDT

— A Cumberland County school bus driver is getting major kudos for herding all her students off her bus Wednesday before fire consumed it.

Vaster Robinson was driving 15 students from 71st Classical Middle School when the bus caught fire near the intersection of Bingham Drive and Bailey Lake Road in Fayetteville.

Robinson said she noticed white smoke in the back of the bus, so she pulled over immediately and led all of the students off the bus. A teacher showed up to help her walk the children across the road to a Subway restaurant, where employees gave them drinks and cookies.

That's when flames devoured the bus, front to back.

"It really traumatized my kids," she said Friday. "When they were getting off the bus, when it was smoking, that was OK, but when they saw the fire, that's when they started panicking and started crying."

She said she did her best to comfort them until their parents arrived.

Firefighters said the blaze started in the bus' engine compartment, and the state Department of Public Instruction is investigating the cause of the fire. School officials say the bus had been on the road for 16 years without any problems.

Robinson said she's never had anything similar happen in 20 years behind the wheel of school buses. Like all drivers, she's trained to handle emergencies, and she knows she has many people depending on her.

"I'm very concerned about these kids," she said. "They are like my children."

Cumberland County Schools Superintendent Frank Till and others called Robinson a hero, but she dismissed such praise, giving credit to God.

"I was just thanking the Lord that I got all these kids off the bus in time," she said. "I was just thanking God I got all these kids off the bus because it just happened so fast."

Robinson and her students were back on the road Thursday in a new bus.