Officials find no troubles with local school buses after Charlotte incident

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 24, 2012

By Sarah Campbell
Local school transportation officials have inspected and cleared buses after a state agency requested all 115 districts across the state conduct special safety inspections.
That request, made by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction School Transportation section Wednesday, follows a Feb. 8 school bus fire that occurred on a Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System bus.
Preliminary inspections indicate the wires on the bus had worn, possibly causing an electrical short-circuit that sparked the blaze.
State transportation officials asked districts to look at the wiring on buses that were received between summer 1998 through 1999.
“We were very fortunate that the incident earlier this month did not result in any injuries to students or the bus driver,” Derek Graham, NCDPI School Transportation Services section chief, said in a press release. “In that situation, only six students were on the bus, and the school bus driver reacted quickly and evacuated all students well before flames entered the passenger area.
“Now that we have more information about the likely cause of this fire, we want to use this information to be more diligent in preventing any other incidents.”
The Rowan-Salisbury School System identified 29 buses that needed to be checked. Transportation Director Judy Burris said mechanics went a step further and visually checked an additional 49 buses of the same model but different year. The total fleet consists of 188 buses.
Tim Beck, the district’s transportation department supervisor, said he gave out pictures and detailed instructions describing what mechanics should look for during the inspections.
“I am having them check all of our buses immediately and incorporate this into their normal routine maintenance,” he said in an email to the Post.
Burris said “no problems were found.”
“The visual inspections were conducted while the buses were between routes,” she said. “No downtime of buses was needed.”
Will Crabtree, director of business operations for Kannapolis City Schools, said four of the district’s 31 buses have been inspected under state guidelines.
“The bus garage has gone in and made repairs to those four buses,” he said. “They used a wiring harness to get the wires together so they would not rub on the heating vent.”
Crabtree said the buses are back in service.
“Our buses are safe,” he said. “They’ve been fixed and we feel like they were ready to be back on the road.”
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.