School Bus Arson Investigated - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

08/26/05

School Bus Arson Investigated

How investigators found the bus last night. How investigators found the bus last night.
Deputy superintendent George Bowen with the damaged bus. Deputy superintendent George Bowen with the damaged bus.

Fire investigators say arsonists are to blame for two fires that destroyed a Savannah-Chatham County school bus and damaged a second one.

Someone noticed the fires around 8:30pm last night at Myers Middle School. Firefighters extinguished them quickly, but not before one of the buses was completely engulfed in flames.

We spoke with school district officials about the problem. Fortunately, the school district has enough buses that they were able to use a spare. But this is a special-needs bus and it will have to be replaced. In the meantime, school officials are furious. They want answers, and justice.

Deputy superintendent George Bowen got his first look today at what happened to the school district's buses.

"I've been in a war zone and I haven't seen anything damaged like this, even in conflict," he said. "I'm amazed. I'm absolutely amazed."

Three seats on one bus were scorched. On another, someone set off a fire extinguisher. But it was the bus used to take special-needs children to school that was burned beyond recognition or repair. The question now is, who would commit this campus crime?

"This bus is designed to transport handicapped students and that means these students were inconvenienced today because some kid or some kids decided they had to have their fun burning school property," said Bowen. "And that's totally inappropriate."

Because this is a special-needs bus, it's more expensive. It costs about $60,000. The board of education does have a spare bus, but this one will still need to be replaced, because if that spare breaks down or needs to go in for service, they'll need to have a backup.

That's going to cost a lot of money and it's heartbreaking for the school district.

"I think the whole thing is deplorable," said Bowen. "I think the entire community should be very, very upset. In fact, I think they should be mad as hell and they should take steps to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Bowen says once the culprits are caught, they're going to pay. "I don't care if it's $10 a week or a month for the rest of their lives," he said. "We need to set an example."

The school district has moved all ten buses that were at Myers Middle School back to Laidlaw. They won't be parking them at Myers any longer.

The Savannah Fire Department and campus police are investigating. If you have any information about what happened, call CrimeStoppers at 234.2020 or the Savannah Fire Department.

Laidlaw is also offering an additional $5,000 reward.

Reported by: Liz Flynn, lflynn@wtoc.com

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