A Wigan coach driver hailed a hero after helping save a group of schoolchildren from a burning bus has insisted all he did was pull over.
Paul Bingham, who has worked for Bryn-based firm Eavesway Travel of Wigan for five years, was returning from a job in his empty coach when he saw the drama unfolding on the hard shoulder of the M6 near Birmingham.
The 44-year-old said he didn’t know the coach was full of schoolchildren at the time but that he thought he should pull over to see if there was anything he could to help.
He said: “I was just driving back up to Wigan and my coach was empty then. I wasn’t far from a service station when I saw the coach pulled up on the hard shoulder.
“I could see that about three quarters of the passengers were off the bus which had flames coming out from underneath. I just pulled up to see if there was anything I could do to help.
“We got the schoolchildren onto my coach so that they were safe and couldn’t see what was going on.
“As far as they were concerned it was just a small fire and it was only afterwards when they saw pictures of their bus on social media that they realised the extent of what had happened.”
Fifty-nine schoolchildren and their teachers escaped from the coach which burst into flames on the side of the motorway.
Paul, from Hyde, said: “Some of the kids started complaining of smoke inhalation so they were looked over by paramedics and ambulance. Apart from that I just sat there with them for three and a half hours.
“All I did was pull over really and let the children sit on my bus for safety. Afterwards I drove them about a mile down the road to the Motorcycle Museum where a replacement bus was waiting for them.
“My wife keeps going on about it and I just keep saying all I did was pull over.”
When ambulance crews and paramedics arrived to the smouldering remains of the double-decker coach near the M42 interchange in Warwickshire, all those on board had already been taken on board Paul’s bus.
Four 10-year-old girls were taken to hospital but were not thought to be in a serious condition, a spokesman for West Midlands Ambulance Service said. The other driver and 13 pupils were assessed for smoke inhalation.
The spokesman added: “The trust would like to pay tribute to the coach driver who spotted the issue, stopped at the side of the motorway and helped evacuate the children.
“He then kept them and their teachers safe on his coach while firefighters dealt with the blaze. This could clearly have been a much more serious incident but for quick actions of the coach drivers, teachers and children.”