Driver saves pupils from burning bus
A BUS driver has been praised for helping children to safety after the bus they were travelling on caught fire on a busy road near Crediton.
The bus burst into flames just minutes after the driver had made sure all of the youngsters were off the vehicle and moved it clear of them.
It took firefighters nearly an hour to douse the inferno, which completely destroyed the bus.
The drama unfolded on the A377 near Copplestone, forcing a section of the road to be closed during the afternoon rush hour.
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Police and fire crews were called to the scene, near Lapford Cross Industrial Estate, after the driver of the bus reported the incident.
The bus was being operated by Beacon Buses and among the passengers were several children making their way home from Chulmleigh Community College.
Manager for the bus company, John Carter, said: "The young lady is an experienced driver and we are all very pleased at the way she handled the situation. She did exactly what she was trained to do.
"I have not spoken to her since the incident, she has not been on rota to work since, but when I see her I will definitely tell her what a good job she did."
He added: "It was a regular service, not a school bus, but there were a number of children on board, although as yet I can't say how many.
"There was another bus coming along behind and it picked up all the children and allowed them to continue their journey."
Mr Carter believes the cause of the fire was an electrical fault.
A spokesman for Devon and Cornwall Police said the driver of the bus had realised there was a problem and pulled over into a layby before evacuating the vehicle.
She contacted emergency services and fire crews from Crediton and North Tawton were sent to the scene.
Firefighters used two hoses to extinguish the blaze, which crews confirmed was under control within an hour.
Fire chiefs said the fire was out by 5.30pm and said the bus was severely damaged by the fire.
Police confirmed nobody was injured in the incident and said all the schoolchildren and the driver had safely got off the vehicle before the situation worsened.
Officers said the cause of the fire is believed to be accidental. The fire may have begun with a mechanical fault in the engine.
Passengers were collected by another vehicle and safely transported to their destination.
Beacon Buses was unable to put the Gazette in contact with the driver before going to print.