A Drexel University shuttle bus caught on fire, forcing the two students and the bus driver on the vehicle to escape Jan. 23. All those inside left unharmed, but a video of the burning vehicle was recorded and distributed after the student gave the footage to NBC Philadelphia.
The Triangle contacted director of media relations Niki Gianakaris for a statement. After speaking to Francis Maahs, director of transportation of Drexel University, she responded that the fire was still under investigation. However, according to Gianakaris, it was found the fire was the result of an electrical short in the wiring harness under the dashboard of the bus. “As a preventive measure, every bus is being checked by auto mechanics of the University facilities department to determine if other buses have this same electrical problem,” Gianakaris wrote in an email.
According to her, University facilities has been operating a full-size bus service since 1998, servicing an estimated 22,000 passengers weekly. This is the first ever incident of this magnitude to happen on the service.
There are three bus service routes, named “Dragon,” “Blue and Gold,” and “Queen Lane.” Peak hours are said to be from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. as well as from 2 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
“Drexel complies with the which requires all buses to undergo a safety inspection every six months. The safety inspection is first performed by in-house Drexel University facilities mechanics. This inspection includes checking all the operating systems such as bus airflow, braking system, glass, tires and wheels, vehicle lights, chassis, the electrical system, seats, doors and windows. The inspection also includes checking — and changing when necessary — the vehicle fluids such as the system engine oil and transmission fluids,” Gianakaris wrote.
She continued, “After the Drexel safety inspection, the bus is sent to a vendor [that] performs commercial vehicle safety inspections. This vendor performs the same safety inspection and will make any necessary repairs needed under the inspection code. The vendor will then issue a Pennsylvania safety inspection sticker, which is attached to the vehicle’s windshield showing that the safety inspection has been completed and when it expires.”
Gianakaris also wrote that the bus drivers are required to perform pre- and post-trip inspections for any defects, reporting any issues with the supervisors. Any reports are promptly corrected by the Drexel mechanics before it continues on its service.
Some students commented on the shuttle fire and the University’s handling of the event. Alyssa Ragno, a biological sciences pre-junior biology major who used to use the shuttle to get to co-op everyday, said she was “not comfortable” with the fact that Drexel did not notify students about the incident. She did, however, still feel comfortable riding the shuttle.
Devan Carrigan, a nursing major, said she has all of her classes in Center City and uses the shuttle to get to all of them. “I just hope everyone was okay. I thought it was kind of funny because we’re supposed to be a top-notch university. We rely on the shuttles and then they catch [on] fire,” Carrigan said. She also stated that she didn’t seem afraid to use them in the future as long as they are inspected.