(Memphis) A MATA trolley went up in flames Monday morning.
Neither the six passengers nor the driver were injured.
Trolley #553, built in 1923, caught on fire just before 8 a.m.
One of the riders says the experience was traumatizing and he won’t be riding the trolley again anytime soon.
Vernon Scott said he feels lucky to be alive after his normal ride to work Monday morning turned out to be anything but routine.
“I found myself trying to force my way out. And I’m watching the flames and the smoke is coming in at the same time, ” said Scott.
Scott was a passenger on the MATA Trolley #553 when he saw sparks flying out from under the driver’s control panel.
“There was a burst of flame, which was proceeded by a second burst of flame and then a bellow of dark black smoke,” Scott said.
Scott rides the trolley every morning to his restaurant job near the medical center.
He said passengers thought they could get the blaze under control with a fire extinguisher.
“However, it began to increase. So at that time we decided that it was best that we get out,” said Scott.
But getting out wasn’t easy because the trolley doors wouldn’t budge.
Scott said he and other passengers started to panic.
“The greatest point that I found life threatening was when I proceeded to go to the door to get out and the doors were jammed…jammed tight,” he said.
He said used all his strength to open the doors and escape, and within 30 seconds, the trolley was engulfed in flames.
“I have no problems using the buses or anything of the sort. But yeah, with the trolley I may just have to find another way of getting up and down Madison for a little while. Just until I’m comfortable riding them again,” Scott said.
Trolley #553 was bought in 1997 after a $387,500 refurbishment.
The maintenance records reflect the following repairs on Trolley 553:
March 5, 2014 Axle Bearing Repaired
November 20, 2013 Motor # 1 – Replaced
August 20, 2013 Motor# 3 – Replaced
April 5, 2013 Motor # 2 – Replaced
MATA reports preventative maintenance was last done March 25, 2014, and that there have been no previous major problems with Trolley #553.
Service on Madison Avenue was temporarily suspended due to the fire.
Last November, seven people suffered minor injuries when another trolley went up in flames near Madison and I-240.
Some passengers were sent to the hospital to be treated for smoke inhalation.
That trolley was originally built in 1927 by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board and is one of 752 that was built between 1923- 1956.
All of the trolleys run by MATA have been restored.
In the November accident, witnesses pointed towards one woman, calling her a hero for prying the trolley doors open so they could escape.
According to MATA, “The trolley operator and passengers confirmed hearing a loud pop in the trolley operator’s area of the trolley and smoke entered the trolley immediately.”