Pupils in school bus fume drama

BUS company bosses are today investigating after 25 Suffolk schoolchildren had to be treated in hospital when they were overcome by fumes.Many of those travelling on the First Eastern Counties vehicle between Haverhill and Bury St Edmunds were taken to West Suffolk Hospital for treatment following the incident yesterday morning.

BUS company bosses are today investigating after 25 Suffolk schoolchildren had to be treated in hospital when they were overcome by fumes.

Many of those travelling on the First Eastern Counties vehicle between Haverhill and Bury St Edmunds were taken to West Suffolk Hospital for treatment following the incident yesterday morning.

Both youngsters and fare-paying passengers began feeling ill when the bus reached Chevington, with some even vomiting on board.

But the vehicle continued along the A143 until it eventually stopped in Horringer, where some children were sick on the verge.


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Around 25 youngsters, who attend Horringer Court Middle School, were later transferred to the Bury hospital as a precaution, where blood tests and ECG scans showed no lasting damage.

Speaking after the incident, bosses at First Eastern said the fumes were steam caused when fluid dripped onto the vehicle's engine.

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They insisted the safety of the children had not been put at risk, and immediately removed the bus from service until an inspection was complete.

But the parents whose children suffered as a result of the incident voiced their concerns.

One mother, who did not wish to be named but whose two children, aged nine and 11, were on the bus at the time, said: "Being in hospital was quite traumatic.

"It took three of us to hold my daughter down when she had the tests as she was sobbing so much. It was not very nice to see all the children with oxygen masks over the faces and having ECG scans.

"At the school it was horrible, as all the kids were laying around looking ill and flushed. My children felt nauseous and were very shaky.

"The children are missing out as a result of this, as they have had time off school, and parents have also had to take time off."

Anita Costello, whose 12-year-old son Matthew Costello-Clark was sick whilst on the bus, criticised First Eastern Counties.

"Matthew was very ill during the morning, and was sick, hyperventilating and suffered chest pains," she said. "At the hospital he was given oxygen and an ECG scan, and blood was taken. The first six results came back negative and the consultants are confident the rest would also be fine.

"It was very stressful, and I think I can speak on behalf of most of the villagers in Chedburgh when I say we feel very let down by First Eastern Counties."

Matthew added: "There was smoke coming out of the back seats where the engine is, and I was sick on the bus and again when I got off."

Speaking after the children had been discharged from hospital, John Pope, managing director for First in the Eastern Counties said: "I have spoken to some of the parents and have reassured them the steam in the bus was in no way connected to the exhaust of the bus. 

"It was fluid dripping onto the engine that turned into steam. The engine and exhaust were replaced three months ago and we regularly service all our buses to ensure they are safe for our customers.

"Suffolk County Council has been in contact to report that the hospital the children attended said there was no trace of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

"I don't believe the health and safety of the children were put at risk.  The bus was removed from service and the inspection was completed this afternoon."

And a spokesman for Suffolk County Council, which hires First Eastern Counties to ferry children to school, said: "Some children from Horringer Court Middle School were affected by what was believed to be steam mixed with antifreeze from a broken water pipe.

"When the children arrived at school they were given fresh air and water, and parents called. Those pupils who were feeling ill were advised to seek medical attention at the hospital, and they have since been released.

"We understand that the bus company is carrying out an investigation into the incident."

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