66 NRIs escape burning bus; become victims of racist jibe

The passengers, worshippers at a gurdwara in Luton, travelling back after an outing in Weymouth, Hampshire on Friday were quickly evacuated after an alert off-duty police officer asked them to vacate the vehicle, The Dorset Echo reported.

Minutes after they were evacuated, the double-decker coach exploded in a fireball, melting the tarmac.

A woman in the coach, Inderjeet Kaur told BBC TV that the evacuees were subjected to racist abuse by passing motorists as they stood on the highway, wrapped in foil blankets, waiting for a replacement coach.

"They were pointing at us saying 'go back to the burning bus', and sticking their fingers out," she said.

Another passenger, Inderjeet Buar said, "We organised a day out to Weymouth and over 200 people came, travelling on three coaches."

After a smell of burning rubber was brought to driver's attention they decided to drive to the next motorway services for a replacement but Buar said, as the coach progressed passing cars flashed their lights, hinting something amiss.

"We pulled over and a driver who had also stopped, who I believe as an off-duty policeman, ran on to the coach and got everyone off very quickly, she added.

"It all happened in seconds. As we were backing away from the coach there was an explosion, and then another one, it was horrific. The whole thing went up in seconds," Inderjeet Baur said about the burning bus.

Firefighters spent 90 minutes putting out the blaze, which melted the motorway surface. Hampshire Fire and Rescue Service said the cause to Friday's blaze was uncertain.

A spokesman for the Confederation of Passenger Transport, which represents coach operators, said that the driver acted quickly and ensured everyone was off safely.

He said investigations would be carried out by the Vehicle Inspectorate and the coach company. The spokesman said the coach had been checked recently and no problems had been identified.

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