A BUS fire on a busy motorway on Friday could have easily ended in tragedy for a group of James Sheahan Catholic High School students, said principal Mark Pauschmann.
Two bus loads of year 7 students from James Sheahan were on their way home from an overnight excursion to Sydney when one of the buses caught fire.
The bus was travelling along Sydney’s M2 in the city’s northwest at 3.10pm when thick smoke started to fill the bus.
Mr Pauschmann said he was concerned when he heard news of the incident from a teacher travelling with the students.
“The boys were on one bus and the girls on the other. The girls’ bus caught fire,” he said.
The fire was spotted by a motorcycle police officer, on duty as part of Operation Freeflow, who was travelling behind the bus. He raced to intervene with a small fire extinguisher.
On board with the 40 students were two teachers and one assistant teacher, who helped get the students off the bus.
Not long afterwards the rear of the vehicle burst into flames.
“They [the students] were fine, they were very calm and the teachers were very calm,” Mr Pauschmann said.
“It could have gone either way and I’m totally proud and impressed by the teachers.
“The girls were well away from the bus when it caught fire.”
All passengers and the police officer were taken to a nearby bus terminus, where they were treated for smoke inhalation by paramedics.
The police officer was later taken to Westmead Hospital and was released later that evening.
One student with irritated eyes from the smoke was also taken to Westmead Hospital for assessment.
Mr Pauschmann said a little bit of luggage was destroyed in the blaze.
“I’m just totally impressed by my staff and the students, they didn’t carry on and were very calm,” he said.
“I’d like to commend the bus driver, he was very professional.”
Operation Freeflow targets major arterial roads around Sydney where highway patrol vehicles are placed at regular intervals with the aim of increasing traffic flow and detecting people breaking the road rules.
The events leading up to the fire are being investigated by the Office of Transport Safety.