‘My parents are just glad we’re alive’ – Student relives moment bus caught fire in Great Offley

Hitchin - Offley bus fire

Hitchin - Offley bus fire - Credit: Archant

A student who was travelling on a bus with his 12-year-old brother has spoken about the moment it caught fire, forcing the pair and the other 57 passengers on-board to get off – just before it went up in flames.

Hitchin - Offley bus fire

Hitchin - Offley bus fire - Credit: Archant

The Arriva 102 single decker bus had left Hitchin and was travelling to Luton on Friday afternoon when it began to smoke.

It stopped on Luton Road, Great Offley, at about 4.30pm, seconds before it was engulfed in flames.

Charlie Spalding, 16, who lives in the village, told the Comet: “The bus was packed. We were driving out of Hitchin when we first became aware of a smell of smoke.

“People even closed the windows because they thought it came from outside. People told the driver to stop but he carried on up the hill.

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“The bus sounded like it was dying. The smoke turned thick black. A woman screamed ‘we need to get off now’, so he eventually pulled over.

“Somebody shouted ‘fire’ and everyone got off.

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“The driver then motioned for people to get off. One woman had a three-year-old child who was screaming. Another man refused to believe the bus was on fire before someone pulled him off.

“I was at the front of the bus. I got off, before I remembered my brother Freddie was still on the bus, so I went back to get him. Luckily he had made his way to the front.

“He looked upset. I grabbed his arm and said ‘come on, we need to go’. He was worried the bus was going to blow up.

“I think people could’ve been far more hysterical than they were.

“It was lucky everyone got off before it went up in flames. It can’t have been more than 30 seconds later.

“The fire was ginormous, it was taller than the houses.

“There were a lot of crashes and bangs. I thought the pops and bangs were of the windows and joints cracking and melting. My parents are just glad we are still alive.”

Eyewitness Alison Balfour-Lynn added: “The bus looked like a flaming skeleton and when the fire took hold it went up with a bang like a bomb going off.

“The flames were intense. One woman who lived nearby had to replace her windows later as the heat from the fire had melted them. It was horrific.”

It’s believed that the fire broke out in the engine of the bus, and an investigation into what caused the blaze is under way.

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