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Hero bus driver says training helped him save students in school bus fire

Coach Chris Dewease was driving 23 Poplarville students to a student council conference on March 7 when things started to go sideways.
Updated: Mar. 9, 2020 at 3:50 PM CDT
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POPLARVILLE, Miss. (WLOX) - A Poplarville Assistant Football Coach named Chris Dewease was driving 23 students to a student council conference at St. Martin High School on March 7 when things started to go sideways.

"We made a turn on a road, heard a pop and thought it was a flat tire. When I looked in here, there was a flame on the other side of the tire,” Dewease said.

Just seconds later, the entire bus ignited in smoke and flames.

“I saw a flame, so I got the kids off the bus. The teacher that was with me got the fire extinguisher and tried to extinguish the fire but couldn’t put it out.”

Despite the unsuccessful attempt to put out the flames, Chris was able to get everyone out quickly and safely, thanks to emergency training. Dewease also said the kids did a great job of not panicking and exiting the bus rapidly.

"We drill it, every sports program, every school bus throughout the district for an evacuation drill, and it just kicked in,” he added.

And here’s the part where divine intervention came into play. Dewease volunteered to drive Saturday at the very last minute.

“It’s hard to find a bus driver on a Saturday for a 12 hour day for a field trip,” said Poplarville Mayor and School District Transportation Supervisor, Rossie Creel. "And for him to volunteer for that, he was in the right place at the right time. He was meant to be the guy driving that bus.”

"You don’t think it’s ever going to happen to you. I mean you see stories about it happening, but I guess you prepare for it but never plan on using it,” Dewease said.

Poplarville Schools Superintendent Konya Miller says Dewease was more than just a bus driver during the incident.

"Chris stepped up and was a superhero Saturday morning,” Miller said.

Authorities believe a mechanical problem caused the blaze.

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