A group of New Jersey high school students narrowly avoided being caught in a dangerous blaze when the bus they were riding to school erupted in flames.
School bus driver Jose Rodriguez says he sensed trouble with his vehicle as the engine stalled on the road Monday. He quickly pulled over and ordered the students out. Moments later, the bus was engulfed in fire.
"I said 'Get out, kids, get out,'" Rodriguez said Tuesday. "And within seconds, it took over."
Rodriguez was driving around 20 students from Paramus High School when the bus started sputtering. With 20 years of experience as a bus driver and a trained mechanic, he didn't hesitate to get the students out in front of East Brook Middle School.
"I thought it was going to blow up because there was a lot of smoke and it was right where the engine was," said Kyle Kaiser, 16.
"Someone opened the back door and we started jumping out the back," said Stephanie Kravitz, 15. "It was kind of scary, if we didn't get off in time."
Rodriguez ran out with a fire extinguisher as the students jumped out the rear exit door. Dozens of gallons of diesel fuel added to the fire.
"I think it could have been really dangerous," Kravitz said. "We are lucky no one got hurt."
There are 20 grateful families along Rodriguez's bus route three miles north of Paramus High School, thankful that their children made it home safe.
The bus manager said the bus that caught fire was just inspected last week. Rodriguez was happy to be back driving his route — in a different bus — on Tuesday.
"The kids got to the school safe. I'm not a hero, anyone could have done it," Rodriguez said.