A bus full of middle school-aged youths headed to the Mt. Baker Ski Area caught fire and burned near summit Saturday morning, Feb. 13.
A witness, Cameron Hamilton, 28, said he was driving up the Mount Baker Highway near the last big switchback before the ski area around 8:30 a.m. when he noticed traffic backing up. He rounded the corner to see flames shooting high into the air from a tour bus.
He saw about 40 to 50 middle school-age children had been evacuated from the bus.
“It was weird,” he said. “Everyone was calm.”
The kids were loaded onto a second bus farther uphill, to be taken up the mountain.
Hamilton said he was told to just drive past the wreckage — through the smoke — and to continue uphill. He spoke with a reporter via mobile phone while he was in line at a chairlift. He said he could still see the smoke rising from the scene.
A second witness, Anthony Brown, said the students made it off the bus but their gear did not.
Both Hamilton and Brown heard at the scene that the bus had overheated. Mount Baker Highway, which is state Highway 542, climbs steeply in the last few miles before its terminus.
Meanwhile, highway traffic was stalled, and only about 30 or so cars managed to make it to the ski area parking lot.
State Patrol troopers confirmed they were responding, but had no further details.