"Lucky escape" as double decker bus catches fire in Horstead, near Coltishall

PUBLISHED: 06:30 23 December 2015 | UPDATED: 12:06 23 December 2015

The burnt out bus at Horstead. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

The burnt out bus at Horstead. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2015

This is the dramatic scene as shocked villagers watched a blaze engulf the rear of a double-decker bus at the bottom of their driveways.

A bus caught fire in Horstead. Photo: Katie PritchardA bus caught fire in Horstead. Photo: Katie Pritchard

The fire broke out in the engine of the Sanders bus just after 4.30pm yesterday, on the B1150 in Horstead, near Coltishall.

Nobody was hurt in the fire and villagers said there appeared to have been no passengers on board.

Paul Browne was one of several people who called 999.

He said he feared that strong winds would carry the flames across the road to cars outside the Horstead Motor Company, which is run by his father and brother.

A double decker bus on fire in Horstead on Tuesday December 22. Photo: Gavin McKee/SubmittedA double decker bus on fire in Horstead on Tuesday December 22. Photo: Gavin McKee/Submitted

He said: “There were sparks and fire. There was intense heat – I had to move back. Luckily, there was only the driver on board. The flames were coming half way across the carriageway. If it caught the cars on fire, it would have spread to the workshop – the wind was coming that way.

“It would have been a lot worse if there had been people on board, and if the whole of the inside had caught fire. It was a lucky escape. It could have been worse.”

Vicky Pritchard, who lives on the opposite side of the road, first noticed the flames from her kitchen window, and her shout of “fire” alerted the rest of her family.

Her daughter Katie, 13, said: “The fire was coming out of the bus. It looked like it was going through the bus.”

She added that spilt diesel meant the fire spread, lighting the road under the vehicle, while she heard bangs when the rear tyres burst.

Her father, David, said the driver of the bus told him he heard a “clunk” when he tried to change gears, and then saw sparks coming out of the back, and decided to get out.

Despite the blaze, some motorists still drove past, passing within feet of the burning vehicle.

Off-duty firefighter Gavin McKee was one of the first people on the scene.

“As we approached, the cars in front of us were turning around and we assumed there was an accident,” he said. “I continued on to have a look and there were flames coming out of the rear of the bus where the engine compartment is.”

Two crews of firefighters, from Wroxham and Sprowston, were sent to the scene, tackling the blaze with hose reel jets. The rear of the bus was badly damaged, and a recovery vehicle arrived to tow it away at 6.40pm.

Sanders Coaches confirmed there were no passengers onboard and said the bus was not in service and was travelling back to their depot.

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