Dozens of student athletes escaped injury when a school bus they were riding in erupted in flames along a Southern California freeway Wednesday, officials said.
Cellphone videos posted to social media showed dark smoke billowing from the bus, which had stopped on the shoulder of the northbound side of the 5 Freeway at Jeffrey Road in Irvine, according to the Orange County Fire Authority.
Forty-one water polo players and an assistant coach from Foothill High School were coming home from a match at Capistrano Valley High School when the bus driver had engine trouble and began to smell smoke.
"The smoke started to intensify, which followed flames, and then the bus started to incinerate from the back moving forward," said Derrick Lozano, the assistant coach.
Lozano said the bus went up in flames in two minutes or less. Through it all, he said the driver kept a cool head.
"She was incredible," he said. "She was actually the one that made sure to go back to the bus and to make sure the student athletes were off while (the bus) was smoking."
A second bus was called to pick up the students, who had been left stranded on the side of the freeway.
CHP officers who were directing traffic around the charred bus also praised the bus driver.
Joe Studley contributed to this report.