PARKERTOWN MILL, Ga. – A double-decker bus caught fire along Interstate 85 in northeast Georgia, forcing passengers to scramble off and closing the northbound lanes of the busy highway for hours on Wednesday.
The bus was traveling from Atlanta to Charlotte, N.C., on Wednesday when the fire began about 11:40 a.m. near Parkertown Mill, Ga. Chicago-based Megabus said about 80 passengers were aboard and all were safely evacuated by the driver in the accident that is the latest in a string of problems for the company.
Terri Pope, a spokeswoman with the Georgia Department of Transportation, said crews are cutting the charred bus in half horizontally to haul it from the highway.
"It's the only way for the wreckers to remove it," she said.
Traffic, which is backed up for miles, is being rerouted, and Pope said the interstate should be reopened later Wednesday.
"Everyone is out here now. We're trying to get the highway back open," she said from the scene.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
On Aug. 2, a Megabus struck a bridge pillar in the grassy median of Interstate 55 near Litchfield, Ill., killing one passenger and injuring nearly four dozen. Illinois State Police say a blown tire likely caused the double-decker bus to lurch out of control and hit the pillar.
A 76-year-old Chicago woman died Tuesday from injuries she suffered when a Megabus struck her as the driver attempted to make a turn on a downtown street.
The bus that caught on fire was manufactured by Van Hool in 2012 and had passed a full preventative maintenance check less than 2,500 miles ago, according to Megabus.
"Safety remains our number one priority," the company said in a statement Wednesday, stressing that it holds the highest rating available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Megabus, which began operations in North America in 2006, is owned by Coach USA of Paramus, N.J. The company offers low-priced, one-way fares between major cities in the United States and Canada.