Players, Coaches Escape Injury as Bus Burns

By Beacon Staff

WHITEFISH (AP) – High school tennis players and coaches on a charter bus taking them home to Whitefish managed to get off the bus before a fire destroyed it along with luggage and other contents.

No one was injured as the fire burned the bus Saturday evening along Interstate 90 about 15 miles west of Laurel.

Eight to 10 tennis players and three coaches from Whitefish High School were returning to Whitefish after a state tournament in Miles City. Some other players traveled separately with their parents.

The Montana Highway Patrol said people on the bus were smelling smoke as two newlyweds driving on Interstate 90 observed a tire on fire. After being unable to catch the bus driver’s attention, the patrol said, the couple drove ahead of the bus and flashed a sign with the message, “You are on fire.” The newlyweds from Wisconsin had a board and marker that had been used to decorate their car, which featured a “Just Married” sign.

“Right after the driver pulled over, the kids just ran off in time and the bus was fully engulfed,” said Trooper Steve Wisniewski of the patrol.

Getting people off the bus took about 20 seconds, coach Patrick Dryden said.

“It was fully engulfed in flames in 2 minutes,” hen said.

Faulty brakes were suspected. The patrol issued a defective-equipment citation.

The players and coaches spent Saturday night in Bozeman and awaited a replacement bus.

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