DEERFIELD, Ill. | No one was injured Wednesday morning when a charter bus carrying students from Kahler Middle School in Dyer erupted in fire en route to Six Flags Great America for an end-of-year trip, according to a news release from the Deerfield-Bannockburn Fire Department.
Bus driver Walter Lay is credited for his quick thinking when a passenger-side tire failed, causing a mechanical problem. Realizing it was not safe to evacuate students on Interstate 94, he exited at Deerfield Road, allowing for a safe and orderly evacuation, the release stated.
The fire then began around 11:10 a.m. in the wheel area and spread to the engine compartment in the rear of the bus. As firefighters arrived, the fire had just begun to enter the bus cabin, but the students had been safely evacuated, the release states.
"The operator, Walter Lay, deserves all the credit for keeping the students and staff safe," said Deputy Chief Ray Larson. "His awareness and quick thinking to get the bus off the highway and evacuate the occupants in a residential area, rather than the tollway, was the best thing to do. The tollway is extremely dangerous for anyone to stand on or nearby.
"His and the staff's direction to quickly evacuate the students on the bus prevented any injuries to the students."
It took firefighters about 15 minutes to extinguish the fire. The students were relocated to St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in Deerfield until a replacement bus could pick them up and take them to the amusement park.
Police agencies from Deerfield, Lake County, Ill., and the Illinois State Police assisted the Fire Department with traffic control and helping the evacuated students.