Students react after being burned on school bus in Wilkes County

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WILKES COUNTY, N.C. -- Officials said eight Central Wilkes Middle School students were burned on a school bus due to a mechanical malfunction Monday morning.

"All we heard was this big burst," said 8th grader Jazmine Paredes who escaped through the school bus window. "The bus started shaking a little bit then we stopped and antifreeze was everywhere."

"We started opening the windows and everybody was pushing to breathe," said Britney Paredes who cut her leg escaping the bus. "That's how I got the cuts on my leg because I had to jump out the window.

Wilkes County officials said it happened around 6:30 a.m. on a bus on Winkler Mill Road just west of North Wilkesboro.

Officials said the children were taken to Wilkes Regional Medical Center. They said the burns are not major, but some of the students say they received second-degree burns.

"Everybody started panicking and everybody started crying," said student Sadie Ortiz, who suffered burns to the back of her leg. "There was a lot of people crying, but mostly yelling," she said.

Authorities said a heater core or a hose running under the entire length of the bus floor burst, releasing hot water, hot antifreeze and steam.

Officials said a belt failure under the hood caused a cooling fan to stop turning, causing the heater core or hose to build pressure and burst.

"We were pushing everyone to get out," said Ann Jaimes. "As soon as we got out, we were yelling for other people. We are trying to help them."

Authorities said hot liquid flooded the floorboard a few inches deep and a cloud of hot steam filled the inside of the bus.

Wilkes County officials said they are investigating the heating system on the bus to better understand what happened.

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