By Dan Hust
YOUNGSVILLE Sullivan West Supt. Ken Hilton praised both First Student and its school bus driver, Rosie Rosa, for ensuring no injuries when a Sullivan West bus caught fire last week.
“We were very pleased with the way the bus driver, the company and the kids responded,” he said this week.
On January 4, Rosa was taking three SW students home along East Hill Road in Youngsville.
She smelled smoke, said Hilton, but initially thought it was from a home’s chimney she had passed.
“But then she reached down and touched the dashboard, and it was hot,” Hilton related. “So she pulled over and immediately got the three kids out the door.”
Battling the frigid conditions, Rosa shepherded the students away from the bus, which eventually was consumed by the fire.
“It was absolutely gutted,” confirmed Hilton.
The bus garage happened to be about a mile away, so a replacement vehicle quickly arrived to take the children home, while Youngsville firefighters extinguished the flames.
“At least two of the responders are high school students of ours,” Hilton added proudly.
The State Police also responded.
Hilton did not yet have a cause for the fire, which is being investigated by the NYS Education Department, though he guessed it was electrical in nature.
“The fire was clearly out in the front of the bus,” he stated.
First Student’s Youngsville garage referred questions to its corporate office in Cincinnati, Ohio, whose spokesperson, Jen Biddinger, said the fire is still under investigation.
The bus was a 2004 Thomas Built conventional half-bus seating 35 passengers. First Student not SW owns it, and insurance is expected to cover the replacement cost.