44 schoolchildren safe as bus goes on fire in Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork

Tributes paid to driver, teachers and children for getting out of school bus quickly and safely

The school bus which went on fire in the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork yesterday being taken away. Photograph: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

The school bus which went on fire in the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork yesterday being taken away. Photograph: Michael MacSweeney/Provision

Wed, Jun 5, 2013, 22:42

Forty-four primary-school pupils and five of their teachers had a lucky escape yesterday morning from their bus, which caught fire as they were going through the Jack Lynch Tunnel in Cork.

The bus taking the group from Kilcredan National School in Ballymacoda in east Cork to a schools hurling match in Páirc Uí Rinn was about to exit the 600metre tunnel when driver Ger Mackey smelled smoke and stopped the vehicle.

“I thought initially when I got the smell that it was someone after setting off a stink bomb but I spotted smoke at the back of the bus so I pulled in immediately after exiting the tunnel and I walked back to check the engine,” said Mr Mackey.

“I couldn’t see anything at first but when I looked under the bus, I could see she was sparking so I opened the emergency exits and, with help from the teachers, we had everyone off the bus in a matter of seconds.

“I’d say most of the children didn’t even realise there was a fire. It was only when they were a safe distance away and they looked back that they saw the smoke,” Mr Mackey, added. He organised a replacement bus to bring the children to the GAA grounds.

Unfortunately, Kilcredan’s good fortune did not extend to the playing fields – they lost their match by a goal. There was further good news though for the 260-pupil school later in the day when Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn allocated it funding for an extension and refurbishment.