Garden City police arrest man in connection with school bus fire - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Man arrested after school buses catch fire

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Leonard Townsend Leonard Townsend
GARDEN CITY, GA (WTOC) -

Garden City police have arrested a man in connection with a fire that broke out Sunday night resulting in three buses going up in flames.

Police say 24-year-old Leonard Townsend was found running from the area off of Chatham Parkway, smelling of smoke and with burn marks on his clothes. Police subdued Townsend with a taser and arrested Townsend. He faces 2nd degree arson charges. 

The Garden City Fire Dept. said the fire started on one bus and spread to two others. Chief Crosby said there was a bus blocking the entrance to the bus yard to deter criminals from stealing buses, so his responding fire crews had to cut holes in the fence to gain access. 

"We wasted considerable amount of time getting into the facility," said Garden City Police Chief David Lyons. "The other part of that scenario is that we can't get into the lot to patrol. Were we able to do that, we might have caught this individual prowling around the buses building, his little fire, doing whatever he was doing before he set $100,000 plus buses on fire."

At this point, they are still investigating how the fire started.

Townsend had been facing criminal trespassing charges stemming from an incident from June 2013. Last Thursday, Townsend was found guilty on those charges, which are misdemeanors. He was sentenced to 180 days in prison, but was given time served from when he was arrested June 27, 2013, and was released. He was also banned from a location on Somersby Blvd in Pooler.

The three buses that caught fire are owned by SCCPSS. However, since First Student is the private company that runs school transportation, the agreement say it's First Student's insurance company that takes care of these types of claims.

"We do have contingencies in place to ensure what is most important, which is the next day that those routes are not impacted, that we continue to run a smooth process, that students are picked up on time, delivered to school on time and delivered home."

Statement from First Student:
First Student's priority remains the safety of all of the students we transport to and from school.

The specifics of last night's incident are part of an ongoing investigation. The three vehicles affected have not had an impact on the operation of today's school routes.
First Student will continue to work with the police and fire officials investigating this incent and will continue our operations as usual.

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