EXCLUSIVE: Inside look at Mobile County school bus inspection protocol after bus fire

(WPMI) Inside look at Mobile County school bus inspection protocol after bus fire

Immediately after students escaped a blaze consuming a Mobile County School Bus in Grand Bay, NBC 15 News demanded answers.

Mobile County Public Schools Superintendent Martha Peek said officials frequently inspect each bus in rotation, so we asked for proof with an inside look at the inspection process.

NBC 15'S Nicole Fierro went through a walkthrough of the state issued inspection with MCPS' Transportation Fleet Manager Jerome Perryman.

Once a month, every single bus in rotation must go through a 78-point inspection on the bus. Perryman says there's more than 800 buses district wide, ranging in makes from 2019 to 2000. Every bus has to go through the same scrutiny under specially-trained eyes.

It doesn't matter how many years you have in the mechanic field,

Perryman said, adding

If you are not state certified, you can't sign off on this inspection form.

Perryman says there's 22 state-issued inspectors working out of four facilities across the district to complete these monthly checks. Additionally, each bus driver must also complete a walkthrough with the same checklist twice a day.

From the tread depth on the tires, the brakes-to-light connections and the firmness of the cushions on each row of seats, Perryman says if each checkpoint is not up to standard, the problem has to be fixed on the spot or taken in before the bus can run in rotation.

The state of Alabama says every one of these points is equally important, because we're talking about children,

Perryman said, adding

The way I look at it, I tell my people if that bus is not safe to put your kids on- your nieces, nephews and cousins on- it's not safe for any kid to get into.

We asked Perryman about why the bus that had to pass this inspection caught fire in Grand Bay in January.

I honestly can't tell you what happened because the fire incident is under investigation, so I don't know until the fire marshal gives us the report,

Perryman said.

Perryman, does say that each inspection is performed on a parked bus.

A number of things can happen once it starts moving,

Perryman said.

NBC 15 reached out to the Alabama Dept. of Insurance and the State Fire Marshal's Office and received this quote from a representative:

Here’s the information we have at this time:

Our investigators believe the fire started in the engine of the bus. The fire is thought to be associated with the fuel system.
The incident is still under investigation but we believe it to be accidental.

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