GHAZIABAD: In a shocking incident, a school bus of Fr. Agnel School on route No. 1, Vaishali caught fire after a spark caused by the overheating of the engine around 2pm outside of Ashiana Greens Society in Ahinsa Khand-2 in Indirapuram here on Tuesday.
An apparent leakage of LPG gas from a small gas cylinder kept inside the bus caused the blaze to increase, which soon enveloped the entire bus. As many as 17, out of 52 kids which board the same bus everyday were on board at the time of the incident, along with a female teacher, a conductor and the driver. However, all the kids were evacuated safely with the help of the teacher, the conductor, a vegetable vendor and the security guards of the nearby society. However, the driver, identified as Ashok, ran away at the time of the incident.
All the kids in the bus were less than 14 years of age.
The fire was so strong that it left the bus completely charred along with the bags and other belongings of the kids. According to an onlooker, all the windows of the bus had broken too and the rear door of the bus got locked, hence only the front door could be used for the rescue operations as an exit.
As many as three fire tenders were rushed to the spot and the flames were doused off after 30 minutes. ” When I heard the kids were involved I rushed to the spot speeding the fire truck. When I reached the kids were being rescued and our team is also joined in for help. I had brought in two fire tenders from Vaishali and one of them was called from the Sahibabad fire Station. The flames were doused off after about 30 minutes, ” said Somdath Kumar, Fire Station Officer, Vaishali.
The incident left the kids and parents hugely panicked who were waiting outside of their societies for their kids arrival. Speaking to TOI Ashu Gupta, a resident of Niho Scottish Gardens, a residential society in Indirapuram said, ” My son Aditya Gupta (13, a student of class eighth) and daughter Ishangi Gupta (9, a student of class fourth) were in the bus at the time of the incident. I was waiting outside of my society when I heard the news and I ran to the spot. My daughter was really scared and told me that she heard a blast too. However, the kids were all rescued unhurt and we thank Shivani Sharma maam , the conductor and all the others for it.”
Another parent said, “My daughter, Ridhima Shukla told me that she thought she would die. The flames were huge and within no time the entire bus was on fire. We were just praying for their safety. The conductor and driver used to prepare food inside the bus, which is why a small LPG cylinder and some utensils were also kept in the bus,” said Ajay Shukla, a resident of Ashiana Upavan Society and a parent.
The officers of the fire department contended that the blast was not in the engine of the bus, but it was one of the front tyres which exploded due to the heat.
A lot of parents raised concern about the school bus which was a private vehicle hired on contract from a third party contractor and hence, its certificate of safety for operations was under question. ” These kinds of school transport is very unsafe. We have seen this first hand today. Until last year, the official school bus used to come, but this year they changed it,” said another parent.
However, the school transport incharge told TOI, ” We have all the safety papers of the bus and they are safe for operation. This was an unfortunate incident that happened today and we are regretful of it. We have hired 7 such buses from Sun National Transport Company,” said Robin Tomar, Transport In-charge, Fr. Agnel School, Vaishali.
The school management, in a message sent to all parents has offered their regret for the above incident and have volunteered to pay for the loss of school bags and books of the passengers (kids). They have also applauded the efforts of Shivani, one of the teachers who actively participated in rescuing the kids at the time of crisis.