The Minister and OBA government “made a bad judgement call, one evidenced horrifically in pictures” and “thankfully, no lives were lost because the Minister decided that it was not cost-effective to worry about safety,” Shadow Minister of Transport Lawrence Scott said, while Transport Minister Michael Fahy said the “Government is grateful that the Department of Public Transportation is working diligently with mechanics to update and improve training and safety protocols” and this “is a positive development arising from an unsatisfactory situation.”
School Bus Catches Fire Last Month
Last month a bus — which was transporting school students — caught fire on Middle Road in Warwick, with the blaze causing smoke to billow into the air and resulting in severe damage to the vehicle.
The Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service responded with two vehicles and nine personnel, using a “combination of water and foam due to the intensity and aggressiveness of the fire,” and fortunately there was no injuries, with the bus operator being commended for his quick action to evacuate the children.
DPT & BFRS Conduct Investigation
Earlier this week Minister Fahy said that investigations were carried out by the Department of Public Transport [DPT] and the Bermuda Fire & Rescue Service [BFRS].
“These investigators have agreed that a malfunction in the braking system was the probable root cause of the fire. More particularly, the reports has said that the brake springs were stretched which caused the brake shoe to stay in contact with the wheel drum,” the Minister said.
“This malfunction resulted in abnormal contact within the wheel drum, which caused enough heat to ignite nearby residual, combustible materials.
“Fire retardant systems did work in insulating the bus interior from immediate fire intrusion, which allowed passengers and the driver to safely vacate the vehicle.”
‘Enhanced Strategies To Further Reduce Possibility Of Re-Occurrence.
Yesterday Minister Fahy said that the DPT “has embarked on enhanced strategies to further reduce the possibility of a re-occurrence” and “DPT management is discussing with representatives of the BIU and BPSU the findings of the report, with a view to collaborating on ways to preventing this type of occurrence in the future.”
“In the meantime, with the assistance of a Technical Advisor from the bus manufacturer MAN, who was on the island working on related technical matters on the day of the accident, the DPT has enhanced the oversight procedures for mechanics and technicians.”
The Minister said DPT staff have gained access to additional MAN manuals and bulletins for the repair of buses, MAN have provided two technicians for several weeks to assist the local mechanics/technicians, and the DPT will also fill the position of Maintenance Manager, which was vacated in 2013.
“We were fortunate that no one was injured in what was an unnerving event, and we know the changes we have put in place should assist in our safety efforts, going forward,” the Minister said.
Shadow Minister of Transport Lawrence Scott’s Remarks
Mr Scott said, “Minister Michael Fahy and the minority OBA government made a bad judgement call, one evidenced horrifically in pictures. He failed to ensure key personnel were hired and retained.
“Budget constraints have nothing to do with this; the maintenance positions were there for a reason and his decision and its outcome are seen in the flames. Thankfully, no lives were lost because the Minister decided that it was not cost-effective to worry about safety.
“To avoid such catastrophic malfunctions the PLP thought it sound to maintain key personnel and did so.
“The Minister may not see the correlation between job cuts and the negative impact it can have on public safety. But, one thing I can assure you is that it’s not just the PLP who see this as important; everyone who travels by bus or ferry would also agree.
“Passengers, including our school children, put their lives in the hands of the Government for safe, reliable and secure passage on land and water.
“The question now before us is: What else is the OBA hiding?”
Minister of Tourism, Transport & Municipalities Michael Fahy’s Remarks
In response, Minister Fahy said, “The Government is grateful that the Department of Public Transportation is working diligently with mechanics to update and improve training and safety protocols.
“This is a positive development arising from an unsatisfactory situation. This is no time for uninformed, baseless accusations, but a time to look forward to a better future.
“We have shared with the public the findings of the reports into the incident – reports which led to immediate changes by the DPT.
“We still need a new bus schedule, and we hope that our partners will accept proposed changes.”