Utah School Bus Driver Used ‘Ignition Device’ to Start Bus on Fire With 42 Children Inside, Prosecutors Say

school bus

Getty A different school bus

Michael Austin Ford is a former school bus driver in Utah who is accused of setting a school bus on fire while children were on the bus.

Michael Austin Ford, 58, of West Valley City, Utah, a former Granite School District Bus Driver, “was ordered detained March 1, 2024, by a United States Magistrate Judge after he was accused of setting the school bus on fire on two occasions,” a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice says.

“Ford was indicted by a federal grand jury on Feb. 21, 2024, for two alleged incidents of arson while driving the bus,” it reads.

Here’s what you need to know:

Michael Austin Ford Is Accused of Using an ‘Ignition Device’ to Start a Fire on the Bus While It Had 42 Children Inside

According to court documents, in February 2022, Ford “allegedly set a Granite School District school bus on fire that had 42 children inside and did so while driving in traffic,” the press release says.

“As alleged in court documents, Ford used an ignition device to start a fire on the bus and was captured on video continuing to drive the bus, despite smoke billowing past his face towards the back of the bus where children were seated,” it reads.

In April 2023, Ford “was again driving a Granite School District bus in traffic when he was captured on video igniting a fire on the bus. Again, Ford continued to drive the bus with smoke billowing past his face. Days later, in April 2023, Ford was arrested by Granite School Police and questioned about the fire but was released,” the DOJ wrote.

“Review of the video surveillance shows the bus driver, identified as Ford, with a thumb-strike lighter in his left hand. When the traffic stops, Ford looks down and starts lighting the electrical components under the dashboard on fire with the lighter. Ford continues driving the bus, looking down several times at the smoke and intermittently visible flames. A few minutes later the fire is extinguished,” the charges say, according to KSL.

Michael Austin Ford Had Been a School Bus Driver Since 1998

According to KSL, Ford “had been driving for the district since 1998,” but has since been fired. According to KSL, the school district asked maintenance to make it so video surveillance on the bus still worked even if it was manually disabled.

The DOJ says Ford “is charged with two counts of arson of a vehicle of an organization receiving federal funds. A jury trial is scheduled for April 29, 2024, at 8:30 a.m. in courtroom 8.3 before a U.S. District Court Judge at the United States District Courthouse in downtown Salt Lake City.”

U.S. Attorney, Trina A. Higgins, of the District of Utah made the announcement, the release says, adding that “The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is investigating the case. Assistant United States Attorney Michael J. Thorpe of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah is prosecuting the case.”

“This case is part of Project Safe Neighborhoods (PSN), a program bringing together all levels of law enforcement and the communities they serve to reduce violent crime and gun violence, and to make our neighborhoods safer for everyone,” the press release says. “On May 26, 2021, the Department launched a violent crime reduction strategy strengthening PSN based on these core principles: fostering trust and legitimacy in our communities, supporting community-based organizations that help prevent violence from occurring in the first place, setting focused and strategic enforcement priorities, and measuring the results.”

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