Note from River Falls School District to parents:
This morning the River Falls School District had a bus catch fire while in the city of River Falls (near the corner of Falcon St. and 9th St.). This bus (route #15) was transporting elementary students and the driver safely evacuated all students off the bus.
All 40 students were placed on a new bus. Administrators responded to the scene to comfort students and to let them know that they were safe and that their parents would be notified.
Students were then transported to their school site where they were met by principals and other staff to allow kids to help talk through the situation. Parents were contacted by telephone.
The District will be sending an electronic notification to all K - 12 grade parents informing them of the incident to help avoid confusion as to which bus was involved and that all kids were safe.
We are fortunate and blessed that due to the swift actions of our driver and the mature response from the students, we were able to avoid this incident from becoming much worse.
RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) -- Forty kids were safe after quick thinking by their bus driver.
The actions of one River Falls bus driver saved the lives of dozens of kids before a fire destroyed the bus.
“There was a smell I didn't like. There was no imminent danger that I saw but I knew to get them off the bus,” River Falls bus driver Steve Linehan said.
“All of us smelled stinky stuff,” first-grade passenger Riley Bonikowske said.
“I was the first one off the bus and a little kid was next to me. The teacher (driver) said ‘Everybody get up, there's a fire!’ And everybody did, so all of us got off the bus,” he said.
“My biggest concern was that the kids were ok and they were so it was just to keep them calm and wait for a replacement bus, and to get them in one area so they'd be easy to check on and watch,” Linehan said.
“I knew it was going to set on fire because I was sweating and the bus was over-heating,” the six-year-old Riley said.
After double checking that every kid made it off safely, Linehan said he called for help, before flames sparked and spread from seat to seat.
“We were around the corner and couldn't see what was going on, which I think was better for the kids,” Linehan said.
“I get a call from the principal who says, just to let you know there was a small fire on Riley’s bus today,” Riley’s mom Chantell Hendrix said.
Riley said he was the first one off and is thankful everyone else followed.
“Someone's backpack got all burned and luckily nobody got hurt,” he said.
Friday morning Linehan along with the rest of the River Falls drivers were honored for the work they do.
“I could've been getting the call saying Riley was hurt, or even worse,” Hendrix said. “My son's safe, everyone's safe, I couldn't ask for anything more.”
“The true heroes in this are the kids, they're the ones that went through the traumatic experience I was just the leader of the pack to get them to a safe spot and they all responded wonderfully,” Linehan said.
“I know what the other result could have been so I do have a hard time looking at it, so I’ve avoided it as much as possible, so thank goodness it turned out the way it did.”
Although he's not a teacher, like Riley says, Linehan, taught everyone a valuable lesson.
“If it happens again, just do the right thing,” Riley said.
RIVER FALLS, Wis. (WEAU) --A school bus driver who let kids off a bus that started on fire ended up having to escape out a side door when the fire spread.
River Falls School Superintendent Jamie Benson says it happened around 8:30 a.m. Thursday as the kids were heading to elementary school. About 40 of the elementary-age students were on board. The bus was near the corner of Falcon Drive and 9th Street in River Falls when the bus driver noticed smoke coming from the front of the bus. He pulled over to let the kids out, then got back in the bus to check the seats for students. The fire department responded and put out the fire. Another bus came, picked up the students, and brought them to school. Benson says the students were able to call their parents, and the district sent out a message to let parents know what had happened. Nobody was hurt.
Benson says the engine is in the back of the bus, but that the fire started in the front. It's believed to be electrical in nature, but investigators are looking into the cause.