MINNEAPOLIS (CNN NEWSOURCE) – A Richfield Middle School boys basketball team escaped out of the back of their bus, just in time.
According to their coach, it was a harrowing experience.
It’s an incredibly frightening sight, a school bus bursting with flames on the shoulder of 494.
At a safe distance away, MnDOT’s camera shows the young passengers who safely escaped.
“I’m just really proud of the kids for responding calmly getting off the bus,” Daniel Beyel said.
Daniel Beyel is a coach for the Richfield Middle School 7th grade boys basketball team and was on the bus as the team was traveling to Maplewood for its first game of the season.
“Kind of smelled some smoke or something and then we saw black smoke coming out of the front of the bus,” Beyel said.
He says the driver quickly pulled over and ordered everyone to exit out the back door.
“And the bus driver, great job understanding the situation, pulling over and then being able to get back and help with the kids, all that stuff, and all of us getting safely away,” Beyel said.
Beyel says about five minutes after they escaped is when the fire intensified.
Traffic started backing up as firefighters put out the flames.
Beyel says the first responders gave the boys blankets and let them into their vehicles to keep warm.
“They were very scared. We were all kind of like thrown off,” Beyel said.
A new bus showed up and took the team back to Richfield.
Beyel had to get a new phone since his was lost in the fire.
But that’s replaceable, the lives of his players and the training they received for bus emergencies is what he’s thankful for.
“And it’s credit to the school system and the bus drivers for teaching that and making sure it happens because it’s a serious thing,” Beyel said.
Minnesota State Patrol is investigating what caused the fire.
District officials say the bus was only four years old and that it just passed its annual inspection last month.