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Six injured in Thursday morning bus fire; blaze started in air conditioning area

By Gheni_Platenburg
July 15, 2010 at 2:15 a.m.

Allen's Wrecker Service brought several large trucks in an attempt to remove the charred remains of a tour bus parked in the entrance to a Texas Department of Transportation rest stop near Inez on Thursday morning. Two people were transported to the hospital, while others were sheltered at a Victoria church. Eventually 12 people continued on to Houston with the bus company, Turimex Internacional.

Six people were injured and many others were left stranded after an electrical fire destroyed their tour bus at the U.S. 59 rest stop near Inez on Thursday morning.

After passengers complained of smelling smoke, the bus driver pulled into the rest stop around 6:15 a.m.

"He barely made it into the entrance before they had to abandon ship," said Chief of the Inez Volunteer Fire Department Rusty Knezek.

David Phillips, Victoria County's assistant fire chief and fire investigator, said the bus driver's quick thinking possibly helped save the lives of the passengers, many of whom were asleep.

"The driver said he opened the door before they stopped because they were electric and he didn't want the doors to lock up," said Phillips.

The bus, operated by Houston-based Turimex Internacional, had been on the road for 12 hours and carried around 30 passengers. It was en route from Mexico to Houston.

Phillips did not know if it was a round-trip tour or one way, according the Associated Press.

The fire began in the bus's air conditioning unit and spread into its baggage department, said Phillips.

The rest stop was not damaged during the incident.

Battalion Chief Tracy Fox with the Victoria Fire Department said two people taken by ambulance to Citizens Medical Center were exposed to smoke from the fire.

The two injured people who were taken to the hospital, a young girl and the bus driver, have since been released from the hospital and have left for Houston, said Linda May with the Crossroads Chapter of the Red Cross.

Most of the passengers were Spanish speakers. Fox said a young girl, who he only knew as Ashley, spoke English and was able to translate for the passengers and emergency workers.

As of Thursday evening, their names were not available.

Another four people were treated on the scene, but declined to go to the hospital.

Fire investigators requested the Victoria School District send a bus to transport about six of the other people from the burned bus to a shelter. The American Red Cross opened the shelter at the First United Church Methodist Church in Victoria.

The bus company took about 12 people to Houston.

The Victoria County Sheriff's Office and Inez Volunteer Fire Department also assisted with the fire that totaled the bus.

The Advocate was unable to determine if the bus was insured. Multiple calls to the bus company were not returned on Thursday.

The National Department of Transportation referred questions regarding safety regulations to the Federal Motor Coach Association, who said enforcement is handled on a state by state basis and referred calls to the Texas Department of Transportation.



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