About 17 children were returning home when their bus caught fire. Scool authorities say it was a short circuit that started the fire, but fire officials say it was due to lack of maintenance.
About 17 schoolchildren of Father Agnel School in Vaishali, Ghaziabad, had a close shave when the school bus they were travelling home in caught fire on May 2. Although the bus was completely gutted, the children were rescued unhurt. The bus caught fire around 2 pm in front of Ashiana Upvan in Ahinsa Khan II in Indirapuram.
Although school bags and other belongings of the students were engulfed by the fire, the children escaped unharmed.
Ajay Shukla, whose daughter was in the bus, said, “The bus suddenly caught fire, but passers-by, the driver, the conductor and the teachers in the bus rescued the children. Luckily, nobody got injured."
Speaking to City Spidey, Draavya Jain, a student of Class IV who was seated in the third last row of the bus, said she was alarmed by the sudden panic that broke out among the other children. “I realised that the bus was on fire when a teacher alerted us and told us to evacuate the bus immediately. I saw smoke coming out from the rear of the bus,” she said.
Saket Jain, Draavya’s father, said he came to know about the incident from the other parents, and rushed to the spot. “I also saw a small cylinder kept behind the driver's seat. The cylinder could have exploded too. Moreover, the bus, despite having 52 seats, had only one gate,” Jain said.
Jain further said the incident had left his daughter terrified. Similar sentiments were shared by other parents City Spidey spoke to.
Robin Tomar, the transport in-charge of the school, said the bus was one the six or seven buses hired from a third-party transport service provider named Sun National Travels and was managed by the provider itself. When asked about regular maintenance checks of the vehicles, Tomar said that despite being maintained by the service provider, the vehicles were regularly checked by the school authorities too. Referring to the incident as unfortunate, Tomar said a short circuit had triggered the fire.
Speaking to City Spidey, Somdath Sonkar, fire station officer of Vaishali fire station, confirmed that all the children were rescued unhurt. However, Sonkar ruled out the possibility of the fire being started by a short circuit and said it was caused by lack of proper maintenance. “As per our preliminary investigation, it seems the fire was started by leaking gas from the CNG cylinders of the bus. The fire started slowly from near the cylinders, which are located in the lower part of the bus and spread to the other parts. Following this, the rear tyres also exploded, worsening the situation,” said Sonkar.
“The bus normally ferries 52 children and was completing one of the last trips, so there were only 17 students on it. The children escaped unharmed, as they were mostly the older students and there was sufficient space inside the bus,” Sonkar added.
Officials further said the rescue was in progress when fire tenders arrived and took over the situation. They also said Ashok Tiwari, the driver, fled the spot, while the conductor Ajay and some passers-by and teachers initiated the rescue work.
Following the incident, the school authorities issued an apology note to parents, claiming that the fire was sparked by a short circuit. “The short circuit was sudden,” read the note. The school also asked parents to avoid panic and offered to refund the damages caused in the form of school bags and stationery material.
Parents of several children from the locality are set to meet the authorities of Father Agnel School, Vaishali, tomorrow morning.