Bus Driver Accused of Setting School Bus on Fire with Students Onboard

Bus Driver Accused of Setting School Bus on Fire with Students Onboard

A bus driver for the Granite School District in West Valley City, Utah, has been accused of setting a school bus on fire while driving with 66 students onboard. Michael Austin Ford, 58, was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on charges of first-degree felony aggravated arson, second-degree felony aggravated child abuse, and second-degree felony criminal mischief. The incident occurred in February 2022, but Ford’s arrest was made on October 30, 2023.

According to police reports, surveillance video from the school bus shows smoke coming from underneath the bus dashboard, but Ford allegedly continued driving. Students on board began complaining of smoke and covering their faces with shirts, while others started coughing. Ford eventually stopped the bus and evacuated the students. He reported the fire to the Granite School District Dispatch and extinguished the flames with a fire extinguisher. Fortunately, no students were harmed by the fire or smoke.

Further investigation revealed that Ford was allegedly involved in several fires over the last five years, including four bus fires, two fires at his West Valley home, and a car fire in Bluffdale. In April 2023, surveillance video from another school bus allegedly showed Ford using a lighter to ignite electrical components under the dashboard while driving. The fires were all electrical and started in the same area of the bus.

Ford had been employed as a bus driver by the Granite School District since 1998, working in various contract hourly, part-time, and full-time positions. He passed all appropriate background checks required by law. The school district placed Ford on leave in April 2023 after evidence of his involvement in tampering with a bus surfaced. He was subsequently terminated on June 5, 2023.

Ford is currently being held without bail pending a preliminary hearing. The investigation is ongoing, involving the Granite Police, West Valley Police, and the State Fire Marshall’s office.

 

CrimeDoor
Author: CrimeDoor

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