LOS ANGELES — Motorists jumped from vehicles to kick open doors and help about two dozen third-graders out of a blazing school bus that had stalled on a busy freeway Wednesday near Universal Studios Hollywood, authorities and witnesses said.
Two children complained of minor smoke inhalation and were examined by paramedics, but the driver and other youngsters were not injured. The 8- and 9-year-olds from Flory Academy in Moorpark were on a field trip headed for the California Science Center near downtown Los Angeles.
The bus stalled in the southbound lanes of U.S. Highway 101 just before 9 a.m. and quickly erupted in flames. Fire spokesman Erik Scott said it took firefighters 11 minutes to extinguish the fire, which witnesses claim started in the front and gutted the bus.
Third-grader Michael Daley described a chaotic scene of screaming children and heavy smoke. He said the adults opened windows and the back door to let the smoke out before quickly deciding to leave.
"Kind of scared me because the driver was still up there, and I thought he was going to die," the boy told KTLA-TV.
The California Highway Patrol is investigating the cause of the fire, which caused southbound freeway lanes to close for more than an hour.
Startled commuters stopped to help get the children, parents and driver out of the bus.
Brian English told CBS2-TV he pulled over and kicked open the front door to help what he described as a "pretty stressed out" bus driver. They got out a fire extinguisher and tried to put out the flames.
English said they found a hole in a freeway fence and escorted the children to a nearby business where they were given food and drink.
Another bus arrived a short time later to take the children to the California Science Center.
Teacher Cathy Peters said some students were crying after they evacuated.
"A lot of what-ifs happen in an 8-year-old mind," Peters told CBS2-TV. "What-ifs happened in my mind when I saw the shelf that remains where we were all seated."