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Fast action saves students from bus fire

A Poplarville High School bus caught fire Saturday morning on the way to a student council conference, but all 23 students on board were safely evacuated.

Assistant Football Coach and high school teacher Chris Dewease volunteered at the last minute to drive the bus for the conference at St. Martin High School, said Superintendent Konya Miller. Most of the school’s coaches have licenses to drive buses so they can drive students to sporting or other activities.

At approximately 7:45 a.m., the bus’s occupants heard a popping from the wheel area, Miller said. The noise was the beginning of a bus fire. Dewease was able to get the students safely evacuated from the bus, said Miller.

“I think the driver, the teacher that was sponsoring the students and the students all did what they should have,” said Miller.

None of the students panicked and everyone stayed calm during the emergency, Miller said. The school practices bus evacuation drills, to prepare for emergencies like fires.

“Chris Dewease is a superstar,” said Transportation Director Rossie Creel at the regular Poplarville School Board of Trustees meeting Monday. “He is a fantastic part of the entire team at the Poplarville School District.”

The fire damaged the cabin of the school bus and resulted in the bus being deemed a total loss, said Miller. Administrators in the Poplarville School District are unsure at this time what caused the fire or what the cost of replacing the bus will be. The bus was transported back to Poplarville and the damage is being examined, Miller said.

At the time of the fire, the students were within a mile and a half of their destination, so Creel and another transportation employee drove a backup bus to pick them up and the students were still able to attend their conference, said Miller.