A bus carrying a local high school football team caught fire and caused part of Highway 26 westbound to be closed during rush hour Thursday.
Flames were seen shooting from the evacuated bus near the Jefferson exit west of the Vista Ridge Tunnel just after 5 p.m. Thursday. It caught the attention of Kim Vaylon who was driving right next to the bus.
"As soon as it got on the freeway, it came up right beside me, and it had smoke all over the back end of the bus," Vaylon said.
Central Catholic High School football coach Steve Pyne said the bus was carrying the junior varsity team to a game at Hillsboro Stadium against Sheldon High School out of Eugene. It was supposed to be the team's first game of the season, Pyne said.
Everyone on the bus made it off safely, thanks to the quick thinking of the bus driver and coaches, investigators said.
"We're incredibly grateful that everyone was safe," said Principal John Garrow.
Garrow said the bus company reported everything was fine 10 minutes before the fire was first spotted. The cause remains under investigation.
"We haven't gotten all the chain of events," Garrow said.
Blue Star Transportation, which operated the bus, declined to comment to FOX 12 about what happened. The bus driver also declined to speak with FOX 12.
Firefighters managed to pull some of the team's gear off the bus, but it wasn't immediately clear if it could be salvaged. Garrow said students potentially lost personal possessions as well.
The junior varsity game between Central Catholic and Sheldon was postponed Thursday, and the principal said administrators would evaluate whether it can be made up in the coming days.
"Our plan is to take an inventory once everything is returned to school later tonight so we know what we have, whether we can even play a game tomorrow," he said.
One lane of Highway 26 westbound was open at around 5:30 p.m. However, drivers experienced major delays in the area throughout the evening commute.
A replacement bus and a couple of vans were brought in to pick up the students waiting on the side of the highway. Most of the players were brought back to Central Catholic on Thursday evening before heading home, administrators said.
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