JELLICO, Tn. (WKYT/WYMT) - A trip to Tennessee quickly turned frightening for a group of central Kentucky students when their bus burst into flames on the side of interstate.
It happened late Friday afternoon in Campbell County, Tennessee, north of Knoxville.
The bus, which was carrying 26 high school students from Sayre School in Lexington, had just crossed into Tennessee when the driver was waved down by a passer-by alerting him that black smoke was pouring out of the back of the bus.
Bobby Wombles owns Wombles Transportation, which is the company where the bus was chartered. On Friday afternoon, he got a call from the driver telling him that the charter bus had caught fire on the side of I-75.
“The driver called us and immediately told us that he got everyone off the bus quickly and that all of the students were safe,” Bobby Wombles said.
Dramatic eye-witness video shows the fire fully engulfing the bus; a scene that Wombles says wouldn’t have happened if help had showed up sooner.
“The only reason why the bus is a total loss is because the fire dept took over 30 minutes to respond to the scene. The way we understood it is that only one fire truck and only one guy came out so they called additional units but by the time they showed up, it had almost been an hour.”
Wombles says the driver, along with passerbys, attempted to extinguish the fire but couldn't pinpoint its origin.
Although the bus is a total loss, Wombles says the most important part is that everyone made it out safely.
After the incident, the students were taken to Jellico High School where they waited for another bus to bring them back to Lexington.
Transportation officials aren’t exactly sure what caused the fire but they believe it may have been sparked by a bad wire.
The students returned to Lexington around 11 p.m. Friday.