By Emily Younker
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
A Pittsburg State University student is being singled out for her actions Saturday morning after a bus carrying 51 students to a conference in Overland Park caught fire.
According to PSU President Steve Scott, Mary Kate Gartner, president of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority chapter, helped lead the evacuation before part of the bus was engulfed in flames.
“She did provide leadership as that bus came to a stop and basically said, ‘We need to evacuate the bus,’” Scott said. “The young women around her gave her a lot of credit for being very composed and yet being firm as to this is what they needed to do.”
According to a statement released by the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department, the fire was reported at 6:45 a.m. Saturday when the bus was three miles north of Arma on U.S. Highway 69. Officers and firefighters arrived to find the bus engulfed in flames, but everyone had been evacuated.
The bus was carrying members of the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority to the annual Fraternal Leadership Summit in Overland Park.
A number of PSU officials, including Scott, also were headed to the summit in their own vehicles. By the time they came upon the bus, the students were already off and emergency personnel let them through, Scott said.
The driver/owner of the 2000 VanHool Tour 57 passenger bus, Steve Roberts, told officers the bus overheated, according to the statement from the sheriff’s department. He said he pulled to the side of the road and started to check the outside of the bus. He also said that while conducting the check flames began coming from the area behind the drivers’ side rear tire.
Roberts, owner of Travel Time Tours and Charters, told officers he attempted to put out the fire with an extinguisher.
Scott waited with the students while another bus was dispatched to pick them up and take them back to the PSU campus, he said.
“Their luggage, their belongings — some had water damage, and it was all affected by smoke,” he said. “They needed to come back to campus and reconfigure that and repack. They headed back to Kansas City about midday.”
Scott said the students joined the summit later Saturday and would return to the campus today.
The Arma fire and police departments also responded to the scene.