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Roundup: Minn. School Bus Garage Blows Up; Utah Calls for More Bus Inspections

An explosion at a school bus garage in Rochester, Minnesota, sent one person to the hospital and severely damaged five school buses.

According to the Rochester Fire Department, the bus that caught fire inside the garage was powered by liquid propane and a cylinder inside it exploded.

Five employees were inside the building at the time, four got out safely, while one person was injured and taken to Mayo Clinic Health Systems St. Mary’s.

Officials estimate the preliminary damage is worth more than $250,000.

Fires broke out in several parts in the building, but crews put out the fire in about an hour. The maintenance side of the building suffered severe damage, but the firefighters prevented the fire from reaching the office area.

The explosion blew out the overhead garage doors and the building was expanded outward in several areas.

A former Pennsylvania school bus driver was charged with 34 misdemeanor counts of corruption of minors after he allegedly had an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student.

William Samuel Cassatt Jr., 30, was charged with 34 counts, the number of times prosecutors said he either sexually touched or messaged the teenager.

Officials said Cassatt and teen met on the school bus, when he was her bus driver.

According to police, the two exchanged numbers on the bus, then developed a relationship that lasted from May to July of 2016.

Cassatt was a bus driver for the United School District. Investigators said no inappropriate contact happened on the bus but rather at Cassatt’s house or in his car.

United School District contracts its bus services through Tri-County Transportation. Tri-County said Cassatt has not been employed with the transportation company since June of last year.

The teen’s father contacted state police last July about the alleged inappropriate relationship.

Cassatt is not in jail and the charges will be sent to him by mail. He does not have a previous criminal record.

School officials are reviewing a proposal to require seat belts on Illinois school buses.

Regional School Superintendent Mark Jontry said there are two main considerations, safety and cost.

The 35 Regional Offices of Education in Illinois are responsible for training bus drivers.

Jontry said his concern is whether students, especially younger ones who might not be able to buckle and unbuckle, would be more likely to become trapped inside in a crash.

He add that it’s likely schools would need to buy more buses because those fitted with seat belts would likely have lower seating capacity.

“I think you can justify an increased cost if you really think you can demonstrate increased safety,” Jontry said. “Nobody is going to question that.”

State Rep. Lou Lang is sponsoring the measure that would require all public school buses to come equipped with three-point seat belts like those found in cars.

Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White announced this week he supports the proposal.

The Utah House voted to require more frequent checkups after school buses throughout the state performed poorly on random inspections.

The House voted 74-0 to approve final passage of the school-bus bill SB40, sending it to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature or veto.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Eric Hutchings, said school buses now are inspected randomly, and of those inspected, one of every five fail and have mechanical problems serious enough they should not be on the road.

The bill would require all school buses to be inspected every year. On top of that, random inspections would continue, Hutchings saying that, “we want to take it up a notch” for safety.

All this comes after the House last week voted to eliminate all inspections on noncommercial passenger vehicles, with supporters arguing that they don’t make much difference with safety and that eliminating them could save money for drivers.

That bill, HB265, is pending in the Senate.

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