Sunday, April 14, 2024

A past school bus driver from Utah is said to have started a fire on the bus while students were inside

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A man from West Valley City, Utah, named Michael Austin Ford, is facing charges for setting a school bus on fire twice, with one incident involving students onboard. He’s accused of using an ignition device to start the fires in February 2022 and April 2023, both while driving in traffic.

Ford has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges, which include arson of a vehicle connected to a federally funded organization. The first incident, from February 2022, involved a bus from the Granite School District with 42 children on board. Ford allegedly continued driving while smoke reached the back of the bus where the children were sitting. The second incident, in April 2023, was captured on video, showing Ford lighting electrical components under the dashboard on fire and driving with smoke and flames before extinguishing the fire.

Ford was employed as a bus driver by the Granite School District from 1998 until his termination in June 2023. The district expressed suspicions after the first fire and worked with law enforcement, installing additional camera systems on Ford’s bus. After the second fire, Ford was placed on leave.

Apart from the federal charges, Ford faces state charges, including aggravated arson, aggravated child abuse, arson, obstruction of justice, and misdemeanor property damage. He has also acknowledged involvement in three previous bus fires dating back to 2001 or 2002, 2016, and 2017, according to investigators.

Ford was arrested in October 2023 on felony state charges and is detained ahead of his federal trial scheduled for April 29 in Salt Lake City. Prosecutors argue that he is a “clear danger” to the community and himself, pointing out other fires possibly related to him.

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