‘The driver reacted superbly’: man praised after getting 13 students off flaming bus

The coach was destroyed in the fire. Picture: Robert Newell

The coach was destroyed in the fire. Picture: Robert Newell - Credit: Archant

A quick-thinking coach driver has been praised after he got 13 students safely off his bus moments before it burst into a ball of flames.

Students from East Norfolk Sixth Form College in Gorleston were travelling along Rectory Road, Aldeby near Beccles, when they spotted smoke pouring out of the back of their school bus at around 4.30pm on Thursday, November 1.

They alerted driver Paul Sadler, who instantly pulled over and made sure every passenger was cleared from the coach before leading them a safe distance away.

Shortly after, the Volvo Jonchkeere Mistral became engulfed in flames.

Barry Picton, operations manager of Ambassador Travel who supplied the coach, said the firm still had no idea what caused the fire but were relieved all those travelling onboard escaped unharmed.

He said: 'We don't know what happened, all we know at the moment is there was smoke coming from the back of the bus.'

Mr Picton, who has been working for the travel company since the 60s said he had never known something like this to happen before.

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And he explained the bus has since been removed from the road and is in the hands of inspectors who will determine the cause of the fire.

Mr Picton added: 'The great thing is there were no injuries. The driver reacted superbly. He got all the passengers off and away from the vehicle – which is the priority.

'Nine of the students were picked up by parents and we dispatched another coach which returned the others safely home.

'The whole thing was handled expertly by the driver and we also want to thank the fire brigade who responded very swiftly.'

Fire crews from Beccles, Great Yarmouth and Gorleston battled the fire for more than an hour.

They used water jets and a compressed air foam system to quash the fire before checking for remaining hotspots with a thermal image camera.

A college spokesman said it was grateful all the students onboard escaped unharmed.

The spokesman said: 'We have been made aware of the bus incident involving one of the companies that provides transport to the college.

'Thankfully, due to the swift actions of the driver and passengers, all the students that were onboard were safe.

'To ensure the students got home safely, the company provided a replacement bus service, whilst others had made their own arrangements with their parents.'