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School bus fire

A Fenton firefighter walks towards a burned-out school bus on the side of eastbound I-44 just east of Lindbergh Blvd. on Monday, Dec. 5, 2016, in Sunset Hills. Photo by Chris Lee,

UPDATED at 12:45 a.m. Tuesday with more details

CRESTWOOD • A school bus driver managed to get everyone off of the bus just minutes before it went up in flames Monday afternoon on Interstate 44, a fire official said.

The driver pulled over when the engine of the bus carrying 36 students from Lafayette High School in the Rockwood district started smoking, Crestwood Fire Chief Dave Oliveri said.

The driver got all of the passengers off of the bus and to a safe spot on the side of the interstate just minutes before flames overtook the bus, Oliveri said. 

The site was just east of Lindbergh Boulevard. The fire was doused by crews within 10 minutes.

The fire prompted officials to close all lanes of eastbound I-44 temporarily after getting the fire call at 5:22 p.m. but two lanes were open later Monday night.

Greg Cain, an area manager with Durham School Services, a contractor that provides school bus services for the Rockwood School District, said the bus driver had received training in preparation for emergency situations. 

"Absolutely, he followed his training to a T," Cain said. 

Terry Harris, Rockwood School District Executive Director of Student Services, said the students on the bus were a part of the district's student transfer program. The group was on their way home from after-school activities. 

One student hurt her ankle exiting the bus and another student had some breathing difficulties, he said. Both students were taken to a nearby hospital and treated for minor injuries. 

"The driver was very quick-thinking," Harris said. "We're just glad everyone is safe." 

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Reporter covering breaking news and crime by night. Born in Algeria but grew up in St. Louis. Previously reported for The Associated Press in Jackson, Mississippi and at the Wichita Eagle in Wichita, Kansas.