SANFORD, N.C. (WNCN) — A Harnett County School bus driver is being called a hero for quick-thinking actions to keep students safe.
The school bus caught on fire about half a mile from Benhaven Elementary School Tuesday morning.
The school community is praising the driver, Monica Tyson-Crawford for smelling smoke, realizing something wasn’t right, and pulling over to get all of the children safely off the bus — before it went up in flames.
Karra Reyan saw the burned bus after dropping her child off at the school. She said she’s grateful for the driver’s knowledge and has this message for Tyson-Crawford.
“Thank you so much for everything you did today,” Crawford said. “You’re a hero for Harnett County schools today, and probably any school district out there. You did a great job of getting those kids to school safely today.”
Investigators are looking at a possible electrical short in the control center beside the driver’s seat as the culprit in the school bus fire.
The Benhaven Fire Department was called to the blaze at 7:30 a.m. on Olive Farm Road in the Sanford area of Harnett County.
The fire was quickly extinguished, Benhaven Fire Chief Andy Thomas told CBS 17. Students were able to get off the bus without any injuries.
The fire caused some congestion as the bus was blocking the entrance to Benhaven Elementary School, according to Thomas.
Thomas said the bus is a 2016 Freightliner Thomas Built Bus.
Thomas said the bus driver did a “great job” getting the kids off the bus. Harnett County Schools said 38 students were aboard the bus.
In a statement, District 3 School Board Member Bradley Abate said:
“This morning, a scary situation for students and families alike occurred on a Benhaven Elementary School bus when it caught fire and burned the entire passenger compartment out. Our driver is an absolute hero and looked after each and every one of the kids on that bus. Our driver smelled smoke, pulled over, and ushered the kids to safety. Without our driver’s quick thinking and heroic actions, this definitely could have ended very differently. God was certainly looking over these kids and driver this morning.”
District 1 School Board Member Sharon Gainey told CBS 17 in a statement, “as a grandparent of school-aged children who ride a bus, I’ll say I am very thankful for the quick action of the bus driver and the safety of all the students. Harnett County is fortunate to have such dedicated bus drivers.”
The school system’s transportation department is actively working with multiple agencies to find out what happened to spark the fire, according to a school spokesperson.
Initial indications are that the issue was not related to an engine malfunction. The department said the engine bay was still intact on the bus.