SACRAMENTO – A Woodland school bus with students on board caught fire on a freeway while returning from a field trip in Sacramento early Tuesday afternoon.
Woodland Joint Unified School District Superintendent Elodia Ortega-Lampkin said in a statement to CBS13 that the fire was caused by the engine overheating.
The California Highway Patrol said it happened just before 2 p.m. along northbound Interstate 5 near Arena Boulevard. The driver was able to take the Arena Boulevard exit and everyone was OK.
"The driver made an emergency stop and quickly evacuated all students and staff. There were no injuries and all passengers were transported back to school safely," Ortega-Lampkin said.
Gibson Elementary fourth-grader Nena Hernandez was seated in the middle of the bus when it suddenly started getting hot.
"They were just screaming, a lot of people were crying," Hernandez said. "Me and my friend were talking and we just hear a bunch of people scream 'fire,' and the teacher looked back."
A Caltrans camera recording shows the Woodland Joint Unified school bus traveling up Interstate 5 just moments before the fire with no sign of smoke. The Sacramento Fire Department's call for service came just minutes after the bus passed through the frame.
Mother Paeje Hernandez is grateful the hero bus driver pulled over fast, butt the district's email to parents is her concern. She read the email, which said, in part, "…The bus experienced mechanical issues and overheated, and had to make an emergency stop in Sacramento…"
The email did not mention the fire.
"It's almost a little bit misleading, to be honest," Paeje Hernandez said. "[I'm] shocked at how severe a mechanical issue it really was because it's not something you would think is a mechanical issue: a flat tire, maybe a blown gasket, or a hose, something. Not a fire."
The district declined any further questions.
A spokesperson for the Sacramento Fire Department says they don't plan to investigate what caused this fire.
The Gibson Elementary School will be offering counseling services to any students who want it at school Wednesday.
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