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Church bus catches fire in crash on I-4 in Tampa

The bus driver, Martin Rufus Silas Jr., appeared to suffer a medical emergency just after 11 a.m Monday on Interstate 4 in Tampa. The First Baptist Church of College Hill bus crashed into a barrier wall, closing a stretch of eastbound I-4.

Florida Highway Patrol

The bus driver, Martin Rufus Silas Jr., appeared to suffer a medical emergency just after 11 a.m Monday on Interstate 4 in Tampa. The First Baptist Church of College Hill bus crashed into a barrier wall, closing a stretch of eastbound I-4.

TAMPA — A church bus caught fire Monday morning after crashing into the shoulder wall on Interstate 4, officials said.

No passengers were in the bus at the time, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

It appeared the driver, Martin Rufus Silas Jr., suffered a medical emergency just after 11 a.m., causing him to lose control of the vehicle.

He veered to the left and then to the right. The bus collided with a crash attenuator at the entrance ramp to the Department of Transportation weigh station, where it appeared to jump the wall.

The bus came to rest straddling the retaining wall along the highway. It was smouldering.

Soon, it burst into flames.

Silas suffered minor injuries in the collision and was taken to Tampa General Hospital for treatment, officials said.

As emergency workers and cleanup crews responded, eastbound I-4 was closed to traffic between Interstate 75 and Highway 579 for about two hours.

The roadway reopened at 1:15 p.m. though the weigh station remained closed. Drivers were encouraged to avoid the area and seek alternate routes.

The bus belongs to the First Baptist Church of College Hill, 3838 N 29th St. Church officials did not return calls from comment.

Marissa Lang can be reached at mlang@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3386 or on Twitter @Marissa_Jae.

Church bus catches fire in crash on I-4 in Tampa 12/03/12 [Last modified: Monday, December 3, 2012 11:19pm]
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