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Man Faces Federal Charges for Intentionally Starting Fires on School Buses

A man in West Valley City, Utah, is now facing federal charges in addition to state charges after intentionally starting two fires on school buses, one of which was full of juveniles. Michael Austin Ford, 58, is being charged with two counts of arson of a vehicle of an organization receiving federal funds, according to recent filings in the U.S. District Court.

The first bus fire was reported in February 2022, and charging documents reveal that the school bus was equipped with an onboard video surveillance system that captured the incident. The footage clearly showed the bus driver, identified as Ford, driving the juveniles while smoke emanated from under the dashboard. Despite the alarming situation, Ford continued to drive, disregarding the safety of the students. The students reported smelling smoke, and some were seen covering their faces and coughing. Eventually, Ford stopped the bus, evacuated the juveniles, and extinguished the fire. One juvenile required treatment for smoke inhalation.

In April 2023, the Deputy State Fire Marshal was informed of another bus fire. This bus also had an onboard video surveillance system, which recorded the incident. Upon reviewing the footage, authorities observed Ford holding a thumb-strike lighter in his left hand. When the traffic stopped, Ford was seen looking down and deliberately igniting the electrical components under the dashboard with the lighter. Despite the visible flames and smoke, Ford continued driving the bus, occasionally glancing down. A few minutes later, the fire was extinguished.

Jeff Hill, the area transportation manager, revealed that Ford had previously disabled or encountered issues with the bus’s video surveillance system. Due to the suspicious nature of these problems, the bus shop staff repaired the system and modified it to continue recording even when manually turned off. This repair ultimately led to the video surveillance capturing the incident, as stated in the charging documents.

The accused individual, Michael Austin Ford, now faces federal charges for his deliberate actions. The severity of endangering the lives of juveniles on two separate occasions has prompted the additional charges. The investigation into Ford’s motives and any potential underlying issues is ongoing.

Author: CrimeDoor

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