A quick-thinking coach driver evacuated his vehicle on a busy dual-carriageway fearing it had caught fire after suffering a tyre blow-out.
The Bus Éireann coach, with 40 passengers on board, was travelling from Cork to Galway at around 8.00pm on Sunday night when the vehicle suffered a rear blow-out on the N18 dual-carriageway between Cratloe and Bunratty in Co Clare.
The explosive force of the blow-out sent tyre rubber and parts of the vehicle’s fibreglass bodywork flying along the dual-carriageway however the driver managed to maintain control of his vehicle and bring it to a safe stop in the hard shoulder.
Two tyres and a section of the rear of the the bus were damaged in the incident while the vehicle’s hydraulic system is also understood to have been affected.
The driver noticed what he believed to be smoke emitting from the vehicle and quickly evacuated his passengers and called the fire brigade.
Three units of Clare County Fire and Rescue Service from Shannon were mobilised to what was originally reported as a bus fire.
On arrival at the scene however firefighters soon confirmed there was no fire and that the bus had suffered a blow-out. It soon emerged that what the driver and passengers had seen was steam emitting from a pipe beneath the coach.
Passengers had already alighted from the vehicle when emergency services had arrived and were found standing in the grass verge the side of dual-carriageway.
Emergency crews used their vehicles to fend off the scene to ensure no oncoming vehicles ploughed into the coach or passengers.
A Bus Éireann maintenance team was also dispatched to the scene by the transport company. A replacement bus was also sent to take the passengers onto Galway.
A National Roads Authority (NRA) motorway maintenance crew was requested to attended to deal the the large amount of debris that was left strewn over a wide area.
A company spokeswoman confirmed: “This was a (Bus Éireann) coach on private hire carrying about 40 passengers from Cork to Galway. There was a blow out on a tyre which happened near Shannon.”
“As steam was appearing from a pipe, it appeared to look like smoke so the driver decided to call emergency services as well as the garage, and evacuated the bus. However, it was only steam and not smoke. A replacement bus arrived within 30 minutes and the passengers continued their journey to Galway,” the company confirmed.
A fire service spokesman confirmed: “This call initially came in as a bus fire. It was re-graded once further information was received from the Bus Company and the attendance of the Shannon Fire Brigade at the scene.”
“The Fire Brigade assisted An Garda Síochána in making the area safe, using their vehicles in the Fend-Off position, to allow the passengers to remain at the scene until a replacement bus arrived and to deal with the debris/oil arising from the blow-out damage,” the spokesman added.
In June 2014 twenty passengers were evacuated from a bus after one of the vehicles tyres caught fire during the morning rush hour.
The 8.00am Limerick to Shannon bus was travelling along on the R471, the old N19 road, when the driver pulled into a bus stop outside the Old Lodge pub on the outskirts of Shannon.
The blaze was however brought under control quickly as fire fighters responded within minutes from their station just two kilometres away and prevented the fire spreading into the bus.