The Houston Chronicle reports that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating a fire that killed 23 nursing home patients last fall. A fire quickly spread throughout the bus.
The federal government requires that all buses carry a 5-pound fire extinguisher, but the NTSB has found the extinguisher to be completely ineffective against tire fires such as the one here. Larry Plachno, publisher of National Bus Trader, explains that, “Once a tire catches fire, it’s hopeless.” However, the NTSB was told that the extinguisher is able to put out almost any other type of fire it might encounter on the bus.
It seems the main reason for this tragedy was not the inadequacy of the equipment (because almost nothing could have stopped the tire fire), but the age of the passengers. “If that motor coach in Wilmer, Texas, was occupied by 43 or 53 young, physically able people, we would not be here today,” said Paul Ford, a safety manager with the Delaware Transit Corp. In addition to the inability of the passengers to get themselves off the bus, many of the patients had oxygen tanks that exploded, causing the bus to be quickly engulfed in flames.
Federal regulators have shut down the bus company, Global Limo, Inc., in the wake of numerous lawsuits and the determination that the conditions of the company’s vehicles “are likely to result in serious injury or death.”