North Carolina

Hampton track and field team escapes massive bus fire in North Carolina

WILSON, N.C. (WNCN/WAVY) -- More than 40 members of Hampton University's track and field team escaped a bus fire along Interstate 95 in Wilson County, North Carolina Saturday night.

The incident was reported around 10:15 p.m. in the northbound lanes of I-95 near mile marker 120, according to the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.

Troopers blocked at least one lane while a bus chartered by Hampton University went up in flames, officials said.

The bus driver "did an excellent job" evacuating the 41 students who were on the bus before it was gutted in the blaze, according to a news release from Wilson County Emergency Management.

"Great teamwork tonight for a charter bus that caught fire in I-95," the news release said.

The team was coming back from a competition in Columbia, South Carolina, according to Gordon Deno, Emergency Management Director for Wilson County. 

After the fire, the team was taken to Hunt High School in Wilson where they waited for a few hours until a new charter bus came and picked them up.

"A lot of us were watching our stuff burn on the bus and at the bottom of the bus.  We had no control over the situation," said Khalil Gary, who was on the bus.  "Laptops, textbooks, clothes, like of course stuff that can be replaced, because you know a life can't be replaced, but we lost a lot of stuff like that."

Hampton University's sports spokesman Jim Heath released a statement Sunday:

On Saturday night an engine fire caused the independent charter bus containing the Hampton University Track and Field team to stop near Wilson.

The team was safely evacuated with zero student-athletes harmed and the fire was extinguished.  They returned home safely in the early hours Sunday morning. 

The fire took about a half hour to extinguish as about 100 gallons of diesel fuel burned, Deno said, adding that the bus did not explode.

Several agencies helped at the scene including the volunteer fire departments of Contentnea, Rock Ridge and Sims, Deno said.

Wilson County EMS also responded to the scene.

"A lot of people were on the shoulder of I-95 so it was kind of cold, a lot of people were in panic or shock," said Gary.  "You never really imagine that it could be you unless you're in that situation."

 


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