KERSEY, Colo. (CBS4) – Both directions of Highway 34 in Weld County had to be closed 12 miles east of Kersey Saturday morning after a school bus transporting a high school football team caught fire.
An official from the Colorado Department of Transportation said the lanes were reopened around 2:35 p.m. after the cleanup.
The bus was transporting the Caliche High School football team to a game in Greeley when the incident took place. Officials said the occupants were able to evacuate the bus prior to the fire.
Players told CBS4's Howard Nathan the bus driver had stopped the bus after noticing smoke but then resumed driving after the smoke cleared. Five minutes later the bus caught fire and everybody on board had to evacuate.
"It was smelling like smoke the whole time coming in through the window," a football player said.
The bus was completely destroyed after the raging fire incinerated tires, melted metal and burned seats to the frame.
Caliche High School parents and other good Samaritans picked up the team and helped drive them to the game.
"There was somebody from Iowa heading there, and they just said, 'We can help,' stopped, we put down the seats and everybody just piled in," Caliche High team manager Clayton Funkhouser said.
"We're very fortunate that we travel well," Caliche's Athletic Director Jenny Smock said.
Most of the team's gear such as helmets and shoulder pads were saved, according to Smock.
"We lost some video equipment and some headsets and footballs, but they got all their equipment and everybody got out safe," team quarterback's father Jim Yahn said.
Caliche High School is located in the town of Illiff.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation. The Colorado State Patrol said it started in the rear engine compartment.
Player Ryan Walther was sitting in the back of the bus when the fire broke out.
"The other senior that was in the back with me, we both looked back after we got off the bus and the seats that we were sitting in were actually in flames," Walther said.
"The bus driver did an awesome job. She was able to get pulled over to the shoulder of the road and get all of the kids out of the bus," a state trooper said.
Caliche ended up losing the game.
for more features.