Schoolbus rolls into gas pump at Topaz Lodge | NevadaAppeal.com

Schoolbus rolls into gas pump at Topaz Lodge

by Maggie O'Neill

No one was injured when a parked Douglas County school bus rolled about 50 feet at Topaz Lodge, shearing off a gas pump and hitting an Oldsmobile belonging to a Douglas High School student.

The incident started a fire, which destroyed a bus and the Oldsmobile, and climbed the overhead canopy. The bus driver, Christopher Dobbins, and occupants of the the Oldsmobile were inside Topaz Lodge General Store when the incident occurred.

Dobbins, who is entering his third year as a bus driver for Douglas County, made his daily stop at the Topaz Lodge General Store, parking the bus at 5:50 a.m. Dobbins picks up Douglas High School students on Route One.

At 5:53 a.m., Dobbins said employees inside the store had noticed a fire starting outside.

Sandra Tucker, a Topaz Lodge General Store employee switched an emergency gasoline shut off while another employee switched off the individual pumps from inside the store.

“We all stayed calm,” she said.

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When the East Fork Fire Department arrived at 6:07 a.m., the car and bus were in flames and the fire had climbed the wood of the overhead canopy.

“I was shocked to say the least,” Dobbins said. “Looking out to see the bus on the island on fire. It could have been far worse.”

Firefighters extinguished the fire in about 15 minutes and were preparing to leave the scene about 11:10 a.m.

Dobbins credited the quick thinking of the General Store employees for turning off the pumps.

“My concern obviously was the gas,” he said.

District Fire Chief Tod Carlini said he did not have an estimate on the damage, but said it was “significant.” The Oldsmobile, school bus, and overhead canopy had fire damage and one gas pump was sheared off.

Carlini said that residual fuel in the pump and gasoline in the school bus and Oldsmobile initially fed the fire.

Transportation Supervisor Sharon Inman said the bus, Bus 55, is one of 45 on a route. There are about 70 Douglas County school buses.

Dobbins drove a spare bus Tuesday, but Inman said she did not feel that had anything to do with the bus, as the buses are rigorously inspected by Nevada Highway Patrol.

“We’re just really thankful no one was hurt,” she said.

Three engines and one tender came to the fire, with 22 firefighters in all.

Rick Kester, director of business services for Douglas County schools, said school buses cost about $70,000. He is waiting for a final report, but said the bus will likely be covered by insurance.

“This particular bus was inspected recently by the Highway Patrol and given a clean bill of health,” Kester said.

“I’m very confident about how we maintain our buses,” Kester said. “I’m confident about our program. We have a bus fleet of about 70 buses, and I think very well maintained.”

Dobbin’s normal bus was being serviced. He had not driven Bus 55 the day before, but preferred this bus because the seat was comfortable, Inman said.

Staff in the district’s Vehicle Maintenance were unavailable to give details regarding the date of the most recent inspection or the age of the bus. Busses are replaced every 20 years.

Kester said he is waiting for information on exactly what happened before determining what the district’s insurance will cover.

Douglas High School was unable to give the name of the student.

n R-C Staff Writer Maggie O’Neill can be reached by e-mail at mo’neill@recordcourier.com