Full investigation planned for bus fire
Transperth will conduct a full investigation into Tuesday’s fire which destroyed a bus in Yokine.
The investigation, which is expected to start later this week and run for at least several weeks, will be headed by an independent local mechanical engineer, experienced in fire investigations.
The vehicle, a Mercedes Benz OC500 LE commissioned in 2003, will also be inspected by a senior representative of the vehicle’s manufacturer. Mercedes’ Melbourne-based General Manager – Commercial Vehicles Service and Parts is flying to Perth for a meeting with senior Transperth management tomorrow.
It is expected that Mercedes will also send technical experts from Melbourne to help with the investigation.
(There were no passengers on board the bus when the fire started, in the vehicle’s engine bay, and no one was hurt. The driver initially attempted to put it out with a fire extinguisher but was unsuccessful. Several loud bangs reported by witnesses are thought to have been the tyres bursting. The vehicle’s gas cylinder, which is fitted with thermal-release and pressure-release valves, remained intact, though the venting of the gas through the safety valves may briefly have added to the intensity of the fire.)
There have been three other major bus fires in recent years – September 2007 in Fremantle; July 2008 in Riverside Drive near the Esplanade Busport; and July 2009 in Balga – all in the same sort of vehicle, which is the latest model gas bus.
There has been an oil leak in each case, but they have been from different parts of the engine. In each case, after a lengthy investigation Mercedes said they had identified the problem and subsequently installed modifications on all the affected buses. The third such “fix” is due to take place in January.
After the 2008 incident, Transperth instituted a regime of having the buses mechanically checked every 48 hours. Consideration is now being given to increasing the frequency of the checks.
Also in the wake of the 2008 fire, investigations were started into appropriate fire suppression systems. One such system was installed on a 12-month trial basis in November last year – earlier this year the trial was extended to take into account the third round of engine modifications Mercedes has planned for next month.
In a separate incident, a man was injured during an attempt to move the burnt-out shell of the bus. The man, who works for one of Transperth bus contractors, was part of a crew moving the bus within the company’s Morley depot. He was taken to hospital and treated for broken ribs. His condition is not thought to be serious. A separate investigation will be conducted into the accident.
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