A FATHER rescued five children from a smoking school bus minutes before it burst into flames on Friday.

Mathew Trudgill, 41, of Firs Road in Firsdown, was putting his children Daniel, 11, and eight-year-old Laura on the Wilts & Dorset bus to Winterslow Primary School at about 8.40am when the driver noticed smoke coming from the back tyre on the passenger side.

Thinking it was a problem with the clutch, he got off the bus to phone the depot.

But then Mr Trudgill noticed more and more smoke pouring out of the vehicle so he quickly got his two children and the three other children off the bus.

As he ushered them to a safe distance, the bus suddenly burst into flames.

He said: “There was a loud bang and flames leapt up the side of the bus. It was definitely a lucky escape, one minute longer and they would have been in the middle of it.

“I’m just so glad the bus had stopped and the driver got out. If he’d driven on he probably wouldn’t have seen the smoke. I think he was quite shaken up.”

Mr Trudgill took the children to his driveway, which was about 100 yards from the bus, and emergency services were called in.

Two fire crews from Salisbury attended and police shut Firs Road and the A30 London Road at the Winterbourne exit and Winterslow end while they dealt with the incident.

The blaze was quickly brought under control but the bus was destroyed.

Mr Trudgill contacted the school and the headmistress and deputy drove out to pick up the children and take them to school.

He said: “I think the children were a bit scared when they were getting off the bus and at the first bang, but once they were away from it and safe they were very excited to be in the middle of a drama.”

A spokesman for Wilts & Dorset buses said a full investigation would be carried out into the cause of the blaze.

“I would like to praise the children on board, the parent who helped and the bus driver. Everyone remained calm during the incident and, thankfully, no-one was hurt.”