School bus fire shock: Owner fears it won't be last
THE owner of the school bus which burst into flames on Tuesday fears more buses could suffer the same fate because of stringent new regulations to cut emissions.
Paul West, of West National Coaches, said he watched in horror and sadness the video film of his near new bus ablaze on the Bruce Hwy.
The bus was carrying students and teachers from Maroochydore State High.
While the investigation into the cause is ongoing, Mr West said there had been an increase in the number of fires in buses in Australia and across the world.
He said new environmental rules which forced engine manufacturers to get emissions down could be the cause of the problem.
"Because of the change, there is an enormous amount of pressure put on diesel," he said.
"Aviation fuel normally can't burn, but under pressures it burns beyond belief."
Mr West was backed by Bus Industry Confederation executive director Michael Apps.
"There is no doubt the newer low emission vehicles, in order to achieve a reduction in pollution, do operate higher ambient temperatures," Mr Apps said.
"There is a greater risk of a fire igniting after there has been leaking fluid such as coolant."
Figures supplied to the Daily by bus safety campaigner Leon Hain suggest more than 30 Australian buses, including many school buses, have been gutted by fire in the last decade.
Mr Apps was unable to confirm the figure.
He said the industry began research into the causes of bus fires 12 months ago and the findings are expected to be presented in September.
Mr Apps said there was no "silver bullet" solution.
Mr West said the coach destroyed on Tuesday was one of his newer buses and had just been serviced. It had only 110,000 kilometres on the clock.
He said the industry had problems but "they are not going to talk about it".
"Coaches are going up in flames more often than ever before," he said.
Mr Hain, a retired Melbourne pharmacist who led the campaign for bus seatbelts, has been calling for an investigation into the cause of bus fires since January.