Cameron Williams | Staff Writer
Bus occupants scrambled to get to safety as the fire grew larger and hotter as the bus continued to burn and crumble. This sounds like the latest action movie, but it was an actual event that happened to 40-plus Hampton University students.
“It was complete panic mode,” said Asha Copland, an HU sophomore journalism major and track team member. “Everyone in the front [was] frozen in fear. It was definitely one of the craziest experiences I’ve witnessed.”
According to an article by WAVY.com, the fire started Saturday night on Interstate 95 in Wilson County, North Carolina. The team was safely evacuated with zero student-athletes harmed, and the fire was extinguished.
“It was shocking and unbelievable, but I couldn’t get emotional,” said Maurice Pierce, director of track and Field at HU. “I knew as someone who is seen as a leader, I had to act. Now that I’ve had time to calm down, the reality of the situation now [is] taking a toll.”
Malcolm Carter, a sophomore journalism major, said, “I’m shocked. It’s scary to hear about our student athletes going through traumatic experiences like the bus fire.”
The team was coming back from a competition in Columbia, South Carolina. No student athletes or team members were hurt in the incident. The bus driver evacuated the passengers, according to the article. Jaelan Leonard, a junior journalism major also on the bus, reiterated, “Evacuation was kind of slow but eventually was effective. Our coaches were fast to help us as well. They made sure everyone was off of the bus, and they got off last.”
Jim Heath, Hampton University’s sports spokesman, released a statement that said: “On Saturday night an engine fire caused the independent charter bus containing the Hampton University Track and Field team to stop near Wilson.”
Kaitlin Scott, team member and senior liberal studies major, said, “I started to see and smell smoke. We had to pull over, and when we did, that’s when the flames started. The smoke got so thick, my eyes started to burn.”
The team returned home safely Sunday morning.