N.C. school officials: 115 districts to perform mandatory school bus inspection

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — North Carolina school officials have told all 115 school districts to perform special inspections after a Charlotte school bus burst into flames seconds after children escaped.

The state Department of Public Instruction said an investigation of the fire two weeks ago found that the wires on the bus had worn, possibly causing an electric short-circuit and the fire.

Officials think the problem may exist on other Thomas Built Buses received by schools in 1998 and 1999. Sixteen buses in Iredell County -- 15 in Iredell-Statesville Schools and one in Mooresville Graded School District -- are impacted. I-SS and MGSD share a garage for school buses.

State school officials said while Thomas Built Buses is completing a more detailed report on the Charlotte bus fire, local transportation officials should inspect their school buses delivered about 13 years ago for similar wiring issues.

All the buses in Iredell are routinely inspected, said I-SS Public Information Officer Dawn Creason. However, after the DPI warning, additional inspections were made and "precautionary repairs" were performed, she said.

"None of our buses had a lot of visible wear and tear to the wiring," she said. "However, when there was even a slight hint of 'rubbing' of the wires, these were replaced."

In addition, Creason said, the district's mechanics replaced any "auto-reset" circuit breakers with fuse boxes, which is a safety measure she said was "well above and beyond the general inspection that DPI is requiring."

Nearly 14,000 school buses transport North Carolina's 1.5 million public school students.