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School Bus Driver Accused of Lighting Bus on Fire with 42 Children Inside, Then Continuing to Drive

Michael Austin Ford has been charged with arson of a vehicle of an organization receiving federal funds in connection with two incidents between 2022 and 2023

<p>KSL News/Youtube</p>  Michael Austin Ford is accused of setting fire on school buses he was driving on two separate occasions

KSL News/Youtube

Michael Austin Ford is accused of setting fire on school buses he was driving on two separate occasions
  • Michael Austin Ford set a school bus on fire on two occasions, authorities allege

  • He is seen in surveillance footage "undeterred" as he drove a bus while it was on fire in a 2022 incident, court records state

  • He was employed by the Granite School District during both incidents, according to court documents

Authorities in Utah have detained and charged a school bus driver in connection with two alleged incidents of arson — with one involving dozens of school children.

Michael Austin Ford, 58, was indicted by a grand jury in February and was detained on Friday after authorities accused him of setting a school bus on fire on two separate occasions, the U.S. Attorney's Office, District of Utah, said in a statement.

Fire investigators have determined that both incidents were the result of a fire sparked from an "incendiary source," according to a motion for detention, which was reviewed by PEOPLE.

He has been charged with two counts of arson of a vehicle of an organization receiving federal funds, the statement said.

Ford, who was employed by the Granite School District in central Salt Lake County during both incidents, allegedly set a bus on fire with 42 students inside in February 2022, according to the statement.

During that incident, he drove “with smoke billowing past his face” and remained “undeterred by the smoke,” surveillance footage shows, Utah authorities alleged in the court document. Ford allegedly stopped the bus when the children were “seen and heard coughing, covering their faces, and complaining about smoke,” per the motion for detention.

<p>United States District Court of Utah </p> Michael Austin Ford inside the bus authorities say he lit on fire

United States District Court of Utah

Michael Austin Ford inside the bus authorities say he lit on fire

In April 2023, he was driving a school bus of the Granite School District when he allegedly lit a fire on the bus while in traffic, the attorney's office statement said, citing surveillance footage. It wasn't immediately clear if there were students on that bus and the attorney's office did not respond to requests for further clarification.

Ford was later arrested by Granite School Police and subsequently released, the statement said. It’s not clear on what grounds he was released or why he remained employed by the district following the 2022 incident. The school district was not reachable on Tuesday.

In October 2023, authorities also launched an arson investigation after Ford’s home and vehicle were reportedly damaged in a fire, the court document alleged.

Authorities did not disclose a motive behind the incidents.

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Ford allegedly has a history of arson cases, per the motion for detention.

He allegedly “acknowledged to investigators” that he was involved in three other bus fires — one between 2001 and 2002, and the others in 2016 and 2017, according to the motion for detention.

He has entered a plea of not guilty, online court records show. An attorney listed in court records did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment. 

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Read the original article on People.