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Flintshire school pupils escape coach inferno

Scene of the bus fire on Wrexham Road, Hope

A GROUP of pupils were lucky to escape with their lives when their coach burst into flames.

A teacher from Castell Alun High School who was supervising the party of 17 children, spotted smoke rising from the vehicle and ordered it to be evacuated, minutes before it turned into a fireball.

Once the year 10 pupils were safely out, the driver of the coach drove a short distance away from the school on to the side of the road, at the junction of Stryd Isa and Hawarden Road in Hope. It was then quickly consumed by flames and the driver ran off to get help from the high school.

The school’s assistant head Paul Edwards went back to the scene with the driver. Mr Edwards said: "The bus was completely engulfed in flames. Every window was blown out and the tyres were popping."

As the fire took hold teachers at the school and local residents set up a road block to stop traffic passing until firefighters arrived.

Mr Edwards went on to praise the quick thinking actions of teacher Diane Bates who ensured all the pupils escaped unharmed and were taken back to school. "She ensured the safety of pupils was paramount and as soon as she saw there was a problem she evacuated the bus so quickly that they were not in danger."

Other witnesses said the fire was so fierce there were fears it would cause an explosion.

Gareth Williams, who reached the scene before police and firefighters, said: "I was driving back home to Buckley from Wrexham and I saw a huge cloud of black smoke.

"Then I saw the coach and stopped my car on the other side of the road. The driver was trying to tackle the fire with an extinguisher, but it got too big for him to control and he had to back off. I was really worried about the fuel tank on the bus and shouted at everyone to keep well back.

"I tried to direct cars away from the area as well until the police and fire engines got there. The flames took hold really quickly and the whole bus was alight.

"It was completely gutted."

The bus driver was praised by witnesses for his swift action, but was too shaken to speak yesterday.

Fire crews were called to the scene at 12.50pm and spent more than two hours tackling the blaze. The inferno also reached the garden hedge of a nearby property. The hedge blaze was put out before the bus was tackled, amid fears it would spread to the house North Wales Police closed the road.

A spokesman said: "The bus was well-alight and there was also debris in the road, so the carriageway was closed while the scene was cleared.

"There were no injuries."

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