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Students call women heroes for getting them off bus before it went up in flames

Franklin High school junior Cheyenne Hall said the three women on her activity bus are heroes for helping her and 11 other Macon County students get off the vehicle after a tire blowout led to the bus burning on the emergency lane on Interstate 40 on Saturday. (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

Franklin High school junior Cheyenne Hall said the three women on her activity bus are heroes for helping her and 11 other Macon County students get off the bus quickly after a tire blowout that led to the vehicle burning in the emergency lane on Interstate 40 on Saturday.

"I would say they did their jobs perfectly," Hall said. "They helped us stay calm. They helped us get our stuff. They helped us get off the bus."

The 12 students and three women were returning to Macon County after going to MANNA FoodBank to do some volunteer work. The Upward Bound program helps high school students focus on their education future and college. But, Saturday, the focus was on getting off the bus after the accident. Bus driver and Upward Bound counselor Erica Muse quickly drove the bus to the emergency lane after a rear tire blew out.

"You could just hear it. It was a loud pop," Muse said.

Program director Annette Kesger said she was in the first few rows of the bus when the tire went.

"All three of us, I think, told the students get your stuff off now," Kesger said.

A neighbor let the group come into his yard to get away from the bus. Within a few minutes, a dark plume of smoke billowed with flames.

Todd Gibbs, transportation director for Macon County Schools, said he believes after the tire blew it caused heat and a spark to the brake lining or brake shoe. He said the bus, including the tire treads, had been thoroughly checked April 18. A review of the inspection document showed the bus was in perfect working order. Gibbs said someone from Thomas, the bus manufacturer, is coming to investigate of the area bus near the tire well that was compromised.

Muse said she's proud of the students, who remained calm throughout the ordeal.

"When I think about that situation, I have two thoughts," Muse said. "One is how thankful I am everyone is safe, and the second one is those students are really are the heroes. They’re always the heroes for us."

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