By Rod Rose
For the Times Sentinel
Other drivers apparently were attempting to warn the driver of a tour bus that was destroyed in a spectacular early-morning fire Monday, July 1, that temporarily closed Interstate 65 north of Indiana 267. No one was injured, but damages are an estimated $250,000 and expected to rise.
“There was honking and honking,” said Rosie Holloman, who lives nearby. She could hear shouts of “we’re on fire,” she said. “Then, it just exploded.”
The 2008 Prevost bus was part of country singer Toby Keith’s entourage, including back-up singers, guitar technicians and other crew members, Lebanon Fire Chief Jason Lee said in a press release.
About 4:51 a.m., bus driver Randy James, Hendersonville, Tenn., “noticed flames shooting out the rear driver side of the bus while looking at his driver’s side mirror,” Lee said. “Within seconds, the bus lost all power.”
James was able to stop in the emergency lane, allowing passengers to escape.
Keith was not on the bus that caught fire, Lee said.
“Heavy fire” was coming from the engine compartment when firefighters arrived, Lee said. Investigators believe the fire started in the engine. James told investigators he had not experienced any trouble with the bus before the fire erupted, nor were there any signs of trouble until James saw the flames, Lee said.
Firefighters were able to salvage several items from the bus during and after the fire, Lee said. “Most equipment stowed in the large lower exterior baggage compartments was untouched,” he said.
The quarter-million dollar damage estimate would likely increase after investigators learned what personal belongings and band equipment were destroyed, Lee said.
The interstate was closed or restricted until being completely re-opened at 8:58 a.m., Lee said.
The band was en route to Nashville, Tenn., after an appearance Sunday in Chicago.
According to his web site, Keith’s next concert is July 6 in Norman, Okla. to raise money for an Oklahoma tornado relief fund.
Units from Center Township Fire, Whitestown Fire and Zionsville Fire departments assisted Lebanon with water supply. Boone County Sheriff deputies and Lebanon Police officers helped with traffic control; Boone County EMS was on standby at the scene.