BROOKSVILLE — A paratransit bus en route to relieve another driver caught fire and burned to its frame Friday at the Hernando County Transportation Services office on Jefferson Street.
The small bus, a 2010 Turtle Top Terra Transport, was a total loss. There were no passengers on board, and the driver escaped unharmed.
The county immediately pulled in the other two buses, which were of the same year and model. All three were acquired under a state grant, said Dennis Dix, the county's transportation coordinator. The other vehicles were to be inspected before going back on the road.
There was no impact on the schedule of the paratransit system, Dix said. There are spare buses available when one or more are out of service.
"We don't know what the cause is yet, but we're looking into it,'' he said Monday.
The paratransit buses serve disabled residents who live within three-quarters of a mile of the fixed routes of THE Bus, the county's mass transit system, but who cannot make it to bus stops.
The bus fire caught the attention of employees at nearby Day Metal Products. The smoke drew office manager Suzanne Volce out of the front office.
"We went back there, and there was this big black plume of smoke, and then all of a sudden an explosion happened,'' Volce said.
Several more followed, but she said fire units got the blaze under control quickly, so the fire never crossed the fence onto the company's property.
The county's bus operator, McDonald Transit Associates, is insured to cover the loss, Dix said.
Shaun Kusnierczak, the county's transportation grants controller, said he wasn't sure what the explosion sounds might have been because the fuel tank did not ignite.
Barbara Behrendt can be reached at [email protected] or (352) 848-1434.