Wednesday, March 14, 2012

State finds 3 school buses with frayed wiring after inspection

North Carolina's State Board of Education has asked local school districts to take a close look at electrical wiring under the hood of certain school buses after a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools bus caught fire while transporting students home last month.

Of the 28 school districts that have reported back to the state so far, three found and repaired frayed wiring on one bus each, according to Derek Graham, the section chief of Transportation Services for the state."We felt good that it wasn't widespread and certainly any of those that were found the corrective action was taken," said Graham.The three school buses in which wiring was repaired were in Warren, Davie and New Hanover counties, according to Graham.

A state inspector conducted routine inspections Tuesday in Union County. State law calls for local school districts to inspect each bus at least once every 30 days. State inspectors follow up and sample 10 percent of each school's fleet to conduct follow-up inspections.

The CMS bus carrying students home from Chantilly Montessori school caught fire the afternoon of Wednesday, February 8.  An alert school bus driver, Lindora Richardson, evacuated the bus as it began smoking.Fire investigators focused on wires under the hood behind a water valve. But Graham said the wires were obscured and would not have been noticed in a typical bus inspection.

"We're just very fortunate that we were able to learn of a potentially dangerous condition in a situation where we had a well trained driver, where we didn't have a lot of students on the bus and where everybody got out safely," said Graham.But Graham said the state board of education does not consider the wiring on the buses to be a systemic flaw."It's hard to deem this to be a flaw when we haven't seen it for the 13 years the bus has been on the road," said Graham.