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'I still feel haunted by it' - Bus driver recalls terrifying moment he evacuated bus before it caught fire

PUBLISHED: 11:04 25 January 2019 | UPDATED: 11:07 25 January 2019

Norwich man John Ledgard has been praised for his quick actions when his Konectbus went up in flames last year. Picture: Neil Didsbury

Norwich man John Ledgard has been praised for his quick actions when his Konectbus went up in flames last year. Picture: Neil Didsbury

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A bus driver from Norwich insists he is 'not a hero' despite evacuating a bus full of college students just moments before it was burned to a shell.

The early morning bus fire happened on November 12 last year, when the Konectbus 37A service went up in flames on Hall Road in Carleton Rode on its way from East Harling to Norwich.

Driving the bus was 65-year-old John Ledgard of Yarmouth Road, Thorpe St Andrew, and passengers said it was his quick action which saved them from serious injury.

Mr Ledgard said he first realised something was wrong when he spotted smoke in his near view mirror and quickly stopped the bus.

Once pulled over, the bus driver of more than 14 years said he evacuated passengers, the majority of which were City College students.

After guiding his passngers to safety, Mr Ledgard's bus was engulfed in flames just seconds later. Picture: John LedgardAfter guiding his passngers to safety, Mr Ledgard's bus was engulfed in flames just seconds later. Picture: John Ledgard

By the time everyone was off the vehicle smoke was starting to pour into the bus.

The Thorpe driver quickly evacuated and as he turned around to look back, flames had engulfed the bus.

He said: “You want to see the size of those flames - they were higher than the bus. I still feel haunted by it.

“I was in shock but I didn’t want the passengers to see how scared I was so I told them jokes to keep their mind off what was happening.”

A lucky escape. The fire ripped through the Konectbus vehicle in November 2018. Picture: John LedgardA lucky escape. The fire ripped through the Konectbus vehicle in November 2018. Picture: John Ledgard

The bus driver said the severity of the fire was evident once the fire brigade had extinguished the flames.

He said: “All that was left was a shell. The seats had disappeared, the ticket machine had melted and the roof was completely gone – even the tarmac on the road had melted.

“It was terrifying because if the passengers hadn’t moved so quickly and calmly, people could have died.”

Despite the experience, Mr Ledgard said he waited for a replacement bus to be delivered and finished the work day.

John Ledgard at his home in Norwich, taking it easy after a difficult few months. picture: Neil DidsburyJohn Ledgard at his home in Norwich, taking it easy after a difficult few months. picture: Neil Didsbury

Two months later, the bus driver said he still feels alarmed if he smells burning but is looking forward to his retirement in March.

He added: “I don’t think I was a hero, I was just doing my job.

“I’m extremely proud of my passengers because they did exactly what they needed to.”

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