TYNDALL — A group of Bon Homme High School students and staff is scheduled to return home safely today (Tuesday) from a state meeting after a weekend fire destroyed its bus.
About 20 Bon Homme delegates were attending the state FFA convention in Brookings when the bus, owned by B-J Transit, started on fire Sunday, said Superintendent Mike Elsberry.
"We have our vocational-agriculture, or vo-ag, students at the conference," he said. "They were attending a session on the (South Dakota State University) campus at the time. There wasn’t anybody on the bus when the fire started, thank goodness."
The blaze was an electrical fire, and the bus was parked in a SDSU parking lot, said B-J Transit owner Rick Meyer. No one was on the bus at the time of the fire, he said.
"The driver was right there, and he got the fire extinguished," Meyer said. "Other bus drivers from other schools were around there, and they helped with extinguishing the fire. They (drivers) receive training on handling bus fires."
While the drivers responded in good fashion, the bus itself didn’t fare so well, Meyer said.
"The bus suffered extensive smoke damage," he said. "We’re going to have to replace it."
The Bon Homme students were greeted by a surprise when they came out to board the bus, but they weren’t stranded, Elsberry said.
"The Parkston school district was attending the FFA conference, and they took our kids to their motel rooms after the (Sunday) meeting," he said. "Then, Parkston took our kids along to the conference on the SDSU campus (on Monday). It was a nice gesture for Parkston to share their bus with us."
Parkston superintendent Shayne McIntosh couldn’t be reached immediately for comment.
B-J Transit informed Bon Homme school officials Monday morning about the incident, Elsberry said. The Bon Homme administrators immediately held a meeting, he added.
"By the time we knew about (the incident), we realized the parents had learned about the fire from their students on their cell phones," Elsberry said. "Everybody seemed to know, so we didn’t see any further need to make contacts."
The B-J Transit driver did a good job responding to the fire, and the company showed immediate concern for the driver and passengers, Elsberry said. "B-J said they would see to it that we would get another bus back to Brookings," he said.
Meyer confirmed a bus was already in place Monday in Brookings, ready to serve the Bon Homme passengers. He said the Bon Homme district – or any other schools using the company -- wouldn’t face any transportation or scheduling problems because of the lost bus.
"We’ve replaced the bus already," he said. "We’ve never had anything like this before."
Elsberry echoed that sentiment, expressing relief that no one was hurt.
"I’ve been in education for 45 years, and I have yet to see a school bus fire," he said. "Thank God nobody was on the bus at the time."
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