HOUSTON -- A Quail Valley Elementary parent, shot video Tuesday of a bus engulfed in flames after school.
Students were on that bus when it caught fire and sent plumes of grey smoke in the sky. No one was hurt and the students were taken off the bus immediately. Firefighters put out those flames.
"They were trying to get them out the front door and weren’t able to, so they got them out the back in the emergency exit," said Jenifer Gwin Gwin.
Sandra Richardson, who said she is the regular driver for bus 444, wasn’t working the day it caught fire. But she said she had noticed problems with the bus before, and had reported it to the school.
"OMG. That’s my bus and I put it on Facebook. Everybody was reaching out to me,” said Richardson. “I’m telling you. It ain’t safe. I’m the driver. I know. It’s not safe."
She said she noticed something specifically wrong on Friday, while driving students to a field trip.
"That bus slowed down under forty miles. That’s a sign that something is wrong with the bus," said Richardson.
She says she told school officials.
"The head mechanic drove the bus on Monday. He didn’t catch the problem. How was I going to catch it?" said Richardson.
Fort Bend ISD officials said their mechanics perform what’s called preventative maintenance. Depending on the make and model of the bus, there are routine checks every 30, 60 or 90 days. The bus that caught fire was checked every 90 days. Richardson doesn’t agree.
"They are prehistoric buses. They are out of date. They are still running them. They are still sitting in them and trying to salvage them. And driving peoples’ kids in them and it’s not safe. Point blank it’s not safe."
School officials also said their policy requires every bus driver to check the bus before and after each ride and to report any problems in writing.
Richardson said she didn’t know what was wrong with the bus, therefore didn’t turn in anything in writing. She said she told the school officials over the radio.
Fort Bend ISD said Richardson is under investigation. Richardson told KHOU she is sure she will lose her job now that she has spoken out. Fire investigators will not know the cause of the fire for several days.