LAWRENCE COUNTY, KY - More than 50-school kids and adults in Kentucky had to run for their lives when their school bus caught fire Friday morning.
Dan griffin reports: the survivors are being called heroes.
(Dan Griffin/Reporting) "School leaders are praising all involved as their quick actions very likely save the lives of everyone on that burning bus."
Christopher Loughery never dreamed he'd have to escape a burning bus.
Now -- he's living to talk about it.
(Christopher Loughery/Student) "We knew what to do, we got off that bus. They were hightailing it."
He was one of more than 50 people on this Lawrence County school bus.. As it caught fire on the way to school Friday.
(Christopher Loughery/Student) "We open the windows and next thing you know, we're almost to the top of the hill and we start seeing flames coming out of the engine"
On board: 2 bus monitors, a driver and about 50 students from k through 12.
All of them forced their way out of the front and side entrance.. A fight for their lives.
(Robbie Fletcher/Superintendent) "When we called 911 you could see the flames coming back through the motor."
The flames quickly spread through the entire bus.. Charring everything inside.
Superintendent Robbie Fletcher helped the students to safety.. Hiding them behind a hill.
He's now looking the fire's cause.
The district has called in the Kentucky department of education to independently investigate.
(Robbie Fletcher/Superintendent) "We want to find out what's the cause and if we can do anything to prevent this, that we do. I’ve been in education 20 years and this is the first time I've seen something like this happen"
Just last January, the district requested an audit by that very state department.
Documents show they not only passed, but the reports shows their fleet was commended for an exemplary job.
Fletcher says their bus drivers do daily inspections -- looking at the engine, entryways, brakes, and many other components.
And once a month, mechanics do an even more thorough check of the buses.
The last check for the now charred bus was April 15, and school officials say it passed.
It's tough to find much consolation for those on the bus.
(Christopher Loughery/Student) "Even after, they were still crying, we were like just don't look at that old bus, it's gone now, just be proud you still have your lives"
But people who were there.. Say everyone on board is a hero.
(Dan Griffin/Reporting) The school superintendent says there are many questions about why this fire started. He told me they replace aging buses as often as they can. He says in the last two years, they've purchased 6 new buses, with most focused on rural routes. Dan Griffin, WSAZ NC3, Lawrence County Kentucky.
School leader also say the bus was considered "out of depreciation" by the state's recent audit.
However, they say that only means it's no longer eligible for maintenance funding.
They say those buses are still well-maintained, safe and reliable.