BC-NJ--School Bus Fire-Athletes Escape,2nd Ld-Writethru/271
Eds: Adds comments from head coach and assistant coach. Changes headline. Corrects WT sequence.
High school athletes, coaches flee school bus fire in Newark
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Several high school athletes headed to a track and field meet were forced to flee their school bus when it erupted in flames at their northern New Jersey school, destroying their equipment and uniforms.
No injuries were reported in Sunday morning's fire at Shabazz High School in Newark, officials said.
Damon Harrison, the school's head track and field coach, told NJ.com (http://bit.ly/1OELqKz) that 32 members of the boys and girls teams were on the bus along with some coaches. Harrison said he was standing outside the vehicle when he started to see smoke coming from underneath the front of the bus.
"My biggest concern was that the bus was going to go up in flames before everyone got off, but thank God everyone got off safely before it burst into flames," Harrison said. "It was crazy."
Assistant coach Justin Gassmann was on the bus when it started to fill with smoke.
"The athletes in the back of the bus saw the smoke first and started yelling for everyone to get off," said Gassmann. "I've seen smoke from a bus before from lots of exhaust, but this was very different. I'm just glad no one got hurt."
The teams were headed to the Essex County Relays in Jersey City. The start of the meet was briefly delayed so the Shabazz teams could compete, and organizers said the uniform rule would be waived since many of the Shabazz athletes didn't have any uniforms to wear.
The cause of the fire is not yet known. Officials said it's under investigation.
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