NEW CUMBERLAND - Firefighters from all over the region tore apart a school bus Saturday.
The bus was recently retired from the Hancock County School District and no students were on it at the time.
Firefighters disassembled the bus piece by piece as part of a School Bus Rescue class taught by Fire Service Instructor Lonny Riggs.
Firefighters from Hancock and Brooke counties, as well as Hookstown, Pa., spent four hours in classes at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center Tuesday, and Saturday was dedicated to hands-on training.
Riggs said the class is specifically focused on teaching firefighters how to deal with a school bus if it's in an accident.
According to Riggs, approximately 13,000 collisions involving school buses happen annually in the U.S.
He made reference to a school bus accident that happened in Hancock County earlier this year.
"It's a traumatic thing for these firefighters to have to go out and deal with 20 to 30 critically injured kids and have to cut them out of the bus," he said "It's good that they are preparing for it ahead of time."
Riggs had the firefighters watched video clips of actual school bus accidents during class Tuesday.
The video clips were provided by the National Transportation Safety Board, and were for educational purposes only.
"It's a tough class. Unfortunately, school bus accidents happen, and so many departments aren't prepared for them," Riggs said.
Chad Lamp, assistant chief of the New Manchester Volunteer Fire Department, said Hancock County firefighters have never before attended a School Bus Rescue class of this type.
He estimated firefighters hadn't trained using a real school bus since the 1990s, because the departments never had a school bus they could use.
The school bus used Saturday was old and had even began to rust in some places. Once the firefighters were done with it, seats had been taken out, windows had been busted, the tires were flattened, holes were drilled in the side and top, and the roof was actually taken off.
Before the holes were drilled and the top was taken off, the bus was actually flipped on its side, as if it had been in a collision that had caused it to topple over.
The firefighters used hydraulic power tools to gain access into the toppled bus.
Riggs explained extra holes are needed in the bus because sometimes the regular exits may become blocked.
The power tools used to make the additional exits were donated by a company Riggs frequently communicates with.
Tools were donated so the fire departments wouldn't damage their own during the process.
Riggs said the bus came apart pretty easily compared to a new, working bus.
"You look at a new bus, they are a lot more difficult to cut apart," he said.
Riggs explained the newer buses are difficult because of new National Transportation Safety Board standards.
Like any result of technological changes, fire departments have to continually update and train their members to respond to new vehicle equipment, Riggs pointed out.
Funding for the School Bus Rescue class was provided by the Regional Educational Service Academy, a West Virginia agency under the Department of Education.
Riggs, who is a RESA-6 employee, teaches the class all over Ohio, West Virginia and Pennsylvania.
He also teaches at West Virginia University.
"Firefighting is a physical activity rescue. ... The best way to do it is to do a little in the class and then get them out with hands-on (training)," Riggs said.
(Schwendeman can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)