- Your Town
BREAKING NEWS: Pryor school bus bursts into flames: No injuries
Rick McGarvey, of Joliet, was going up to Red Lodge Mountain (RLM) to ski around 10 a.m. Wednesday morning when he saw the smoke coming right out the front of the Pryor school bus in front of him. He stopped the car and cars started to line up behind him. “The bus was stopped. There was smoke coming out from under the hood of the bus. I could see black smoke. About 20 kids bailed out the back door. The fire trucks were not there yet.” He walked about 75 feet up to the bus. “I was surprised how calm the kids were. I asked, “Are you alright?” but they seemed ok. He took his shot of the fire and got back in his car.
McGarvey was worried that he was in the way when the fire truck showed up. He carefully passed the burning bus and proceeded up to the mountain. “I think I was the last person through.” RLM’s Eliza Kuntz told him she was sending a bus down to pick the kids up. He wasn’t sure if it would get through if the fire department had arrived but the kids did manage to get up to the mountain. McGarvey said that he was told by one of the RLM employees that occasionally vehicles do overheat going up to the mountain. “They stop and let it cool down.” Bruner said he passed a Pryor bus on the way down the mountain going to replace the burned vehicle. As for the first bus, “it was burned down to the rims.”
Plenty Coups High School District Superintendent Sam Bruner said it was the annual class trip for grades 6-12 that morning. “It’s a ski trip.” The bus was hired from First Student Bus Company, a charter company out of Billings. Bruner said informed of the fire, the company “sent a wrecker and a new bus. They are going to be back (in Pryor) by 3.”
He added the kids appeared to be making a good day of it despite their ordeal. “I talked to a teacher up there and she said the weather is beautiful!” He noted, “I’m glad every fired department and rescue vehicle showed up. I’m just glad everyone got off the bus safely. That’s a big deal-everyone’s safe!”
Montana Highway Patrol Officer Bill Bullock was on scene and said all the students continued up to the mountain to enjoy a day of skiing.