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Driver whisks 6 students off N.C. bus before it bursts into flames

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 8:22 AM EST, Fri February 10, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • A Charlotte bus driver notices smoke and evacuates 6 kids
  • Soon thereafter, the bus goes up in flames
  • No one was hurt, a school district spokeswoman says

(CNN) -- After noticing smoke seeping inside, a North Carolina bus driver rushed six elementary school children off her vehicle moments before it burst into flames.

The incident occurred Wednesday afternoon as Lindora Richardson was driving the children home from Chantilly Montessori Elementary School, a public school in Charlotte, school district spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte said.

"We are very proud of her and for her following proper procedures," said Stalberte, speaking on behalf of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, on Thursday. "It could have taken a very different turn had she not done her job correctly."

Richardson told Vinnie Politan of HLN, CNN's sister network, that she was driving on her route through a Charlotte neighborhood when she detected a "burning smell" and pulled over to investigate.

Driver saves kids from burning bus

"As that was going on, smoke started to come from under the dash of the bus," she recalled.

At that point, Richardson guided the young students on board to the back of the bus. Describing the children as "calm," she said that they exited "one-by-one" through the rear emergency exit.

The bus driver said she and the students, ages 5 to 10, then "walked so far up the street" where they witnessed the smoke and flames engulf the vehicle.

Video, posted on YouTube and apparently taken after the students had moved to a safe place, shows black smoke seeping out of open windows on the bus, as it sits along a residential street.

Flames are then clearly visible creeping backwards from the front of the bus. Within just over a minute, fire had consumed about half the vehicle -- and shot up through the roof.

There are no injuries related to the incident, Stalberte said.

While describing Richardson as modest, the school district spokeswoman said that she deserves praise -- and she'll get some next week, when she is honored by the Charlotte Fire Department.

"I do have two kids, and I do love children, (and) I love my job," Richardson said of the satisfaction she gets working as a bus driver.

CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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