HARRISON, Ohio -- A Megabus caught fire on westbound I-74 at 8:45 a.m. Thursday.
Officials said the fire was caused by a blown tire that flew up into the luggage compartment.
Fifty-one passengers were reported to be on board but were evacuated due to the "excellent work" of the driver, 52-year-old Steven Jackson. No one was injured during the incident.
Dispatch said the bus was "burning pretty good" when officials were called to the scene and that the damages could have been worse if proper precautions weren't taken.
Jordan Templin, 22, was aboard the bus, headed for Chicago, when it went up in flames. She was on her way back to school in Illinois when she heard a "really loud bang."
Templin told WCPO's Emily Maxwell that she has been taking the Megabus for four years, traveling back and forth to college in Chicago. She said this was the first bout of trouble she's ever had with the company.
Shortly after, the passengers saw dark, grey clouds of smoke emerge on the left side of the bus. The driver immediately instructed everyone on board to exit the bus. Templin said she couldn't see the flames from inside the bus but could see smoke; thinking the bus was going to explode.
The driver told passengers to run away from the bus for safety, said Templin. The bus burst into flames within minutes of the initial noise.
Templin called her mother, Debbie, during the chaos. The two women both said they commend the driver for doing what he did.
"If he wouldn't have had the urgency he did..."said Jordan. Her mother interjected and said, "He knew and he knew to get everyone off and get them away quick and thank goodness he did."
The company's Facebook page states that on Jan. 7, the Cincinnati route was canceled in both directions. Thursday's ride was that delayed trip, Templin said.
Southwest Local School District sent buses to transport the displaced passengers to the Harrison Township Civic Center until Megabus can send another bus.
Megabus tweeted about the incident shortly after, stating:
http://t.co/1JxJFvpsoN is aware that an incident has occurred near Cincinnati. We are currently working with local officials to (1/2)— megabus.com (@megabus) January 9, 2014
gather details. We are presently working on contacting affected customers. (2/2)— megabus.com (@megabus) January 9, 2014
A Megabus spokesperson released the following statement:
The driver safely pulled the bus to the side of the road. The damage caused by the tire issue caused a fire in the luggage compartment. Customers were immediately evacuated. Unfortunately some luggage was destroyed by the fire. The driver did an excellent job bringing the bus safely to a stop and getting everyone off the bus quickly and safely.
The company's website on safety says, "We take the safety of our customers seriously. Our fleet is kept in top operating condition with our stringent preventative maintenance program and network of maintenance facilities."
The company said they they are taking steps to reimburse all customers for their loss, in addition to providing a full refund.